Telstra and Alca-Lu trialling FTTN as Coalition considers NBN options

23 Sep 2013

Australian fixed line incumbent Telstra has reportedly partnered with French-US vendor Alcatel-Lucent on a trial of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technology as the country’s new Coalition government continues to debate the future of the National Broadband Network (NBN) project. According to the Australian Financial Review, the technology test got underway earlier this month, just days after the election, with a Telstra spokesperson cited as saying: ‘Alcatel-Lucent has been our access network partner for many years and we regularly test technologies with them … We started the VDSL vectoring trial just after the election and it is going well … We haven’t demonstrated its capabilities to anyone yet.’ Another source with knowledge of the project said of the work that is being carried out: ‘It’s a node built in a street working in a controlled environment on Telstra’s network … It’s basically a green box the size of a bar fridge. They’re running various test lengths of copper from the node … and it’s there to demonstrate capabilities to the interested stakeholders.’

With the trial said to represent an effort by the telco to grab a piece of the NBN construction having failed to progress past an initial round of negotiations with the state over cost matters, it has been suggested that Telstra could lay claim to construction contracts worth between AUD5 billion and AUD6 billion (USD4.7 billion-USD5.6 billion) should the new administration agree to let it build the national network. Under the previous government’s plans the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) NBN would connect to 93% of Australia’s homes and businesses, but the new government is believed to favour a less costly approach, with FTTN understood to be the technology of choice.

Meanwhile, Telstra’s existing AUD11 billion deal with NBN Co will need to be renegotiated due to the Coalition’s broadband policy, but before this can happen the public-private company overseeing the NBN project may need to select a new board after all of its current members offered to resign.

Australia, Alcatel-Lucent, NBN Co, Telstra (incl. Belong)