National Broadband: FTTN vs. FTTP

Recently I asked what the Internet Society of Australia’s position was in relation to the distinction between the Coalition’s FTTN-based NBN verses the previous Government’s FTTP-based NBN plans.  Here’s an abstract from the response off the member’s list:

On the topic of FTTN vs. FTTP:

  • ISOC-AU does not see any evidence that a FTTN rollout will be any faster or significantly cheaper than a FTTP rollout. The infrastructure provider will still have to deploy fibre out to within 500 metres of every house, install a street-side cabinet, and install new equipment in every residence. It might also have to send a technician to every dwelling to install a central filter and modify the house wiring. That is all not going to be quick, or cheap.
  • In an FTTN network, the cabinets will need to be connected to power, and will need cooling, and will cost more to build and run than the cabinets for a FTTP network, which need no power or cooling in the street cabinets.
  • The cutover process from old technology to new technology will be more complex to always get right on FTTN than FTTP – increasing the cost and risk of the migration.
  • Much of the last-mile copper infrastructure – estimated up to 30% – will not be suitable for FTTN and will have to be replaced anyway.
  • If you have to run a new cable, it makes no sense to run a new copper cable. All over the world, telcos running new cables are installing optical fibre.
  • Optical fibre infrastructure has lower maintenance costs and longer lifetime than metallic cables. The annual maintenance cost for the FTTP network will be lower than for a FTTN network.
  • Looking at international examples, where FTTN networks are being built, they are being built by the incumbent telco owner of the copper cable infrastructure. There are no FTTN networks being built by a third-party telco that needs to negotiate access to the copper infrastructure. This makes estimates of an Australian FTTN cost by reference to international examples dubious, unless it is Telstra building and operating the FTTN network.
  • The FTTN network in Australia may not be significantly cheaper than the FTTP network, once payments to Telstra for renting or purchasing the copper lines are factored in. Telstra is unlikely to settle for less than the $9 billion it has already negotiated with the current government for access to its infrastructure.
  • FTTN signals are very short range – beyond about 1200 metres it degrades to ADSL2+ and degrades with distance. Optical fibre provides full speed to distances of around 30 km. Under a FTTN network, a larger portion of people will be outside the range and will not receive any better broadband than they do now. FTTP eliminates broadband blackspots – no more being too far from the transmitter. FTTN will still have blackspots.

(With thanks to Paul Brooks, ISOC-AU)

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