NBN Co, the company tasked with overseeing Australia’s National Broadband Network (‘nbn’) rollout, has announced plans to augment its nascent ‘fibre-to-the-curb’ (‘FTTC’) service – offered via fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) technology – with an additional 440,000 homes and businesses across the country set to receive the new technology. The move boosts the total number of premises expected to be covered by FTTC to closer to 1.5 million by 2020. The infrastructure provider notes the homes/businesses involved were originally slated to be served via fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) upgrades – what it terms ‘long copper lines’ – as well as ‘infill and extension’ premises within the existing planned nbn HFC footprint. The 440,000 premises are located ‘inside or adjacent to’ the Telstra HFC network, but unable to connect to it, it said. NBN Co will use the existing copper tails to connect these properties to its network via FTTC.
In a related development, the company says it plans to relaunch the availability of wholesale HFC services from 27 April 2018. An initial 1,000 premises in Melbourne and Sydney are targeted, with a further 38,000 planned for release by end-June in select areas across Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. From the second half of this year, meanwhile, NBN Co says it ‘expects to significantly ramp up the release of HFC premises to retailers,’ and aims to hit around 100,000 premises per month in the short term.
Finally, a separate press release from NBN Co confirms the infrastructure provider’s aim to carry out tests of 5G technology in partnership with Ericsson as part of a proposed fixed-wireless enhancement currently under consideration. It owns 3.5GHz spectrum for the planned trials, with CTO Ray Owen saying the company would ‘use these tests to find out more about the technology and how it can help us deliver better services to our fixed-wireless end users across Australia’. The official went on to point out that 5G will provide a significant increase in data speeds (over 4G), noting: ‘Today, NBN Co is operating in excess of 2,500 fixed-wireless [macro sites] across Australia providing LTE fixed-wireless access to 225,000 end users across the country … It is in this vein we have a close interest in 5G for our fixed-wireless footprint in understanding the technology and economics of a 5G upgrade path.’ NBN Co will run its tests in Melbourne this week using a 100MHz slice of bandwidth in the 3.5GHz band.