NBN rollout reaches halfway point
THE company building the National Broadband Network has hit the halfway mark and says planning is under way for future upgrades to the network.
At the end of the June, 5.7 million premises were able to access the network, about 300,000 premises ahead of schedule. And attention has turned to improving the performance of the network which has been plagued with issues.
It's expected about 30 to 40 per cent of the completed rollout will use fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technology to service end-users, which runs fibre to boxes on street corners and then relies on the existing copper wires to make the final connection to the home.
Detractors of the technology such as former CEO of Internet Australia, Laurie Patton, have argued the technology will need to be ripped up and replaced in the next decade.
Mr Patton - called a troll by NBN boss Bill Morrow during senate estimates - has been unrelenting in his assertion that not rolling out full fibre will mean expensive upgrades in the future.
However NBN Co. maintains the multi technology approach has allowed for a far speedier rollout while new technologies can be deployed when they become available in order to meet the future needs of Australian internet users.
"We're already starting that to some degree," NBN Co's chief network engineer officer Peter Ryan told news.com.au.
"Next year we'll introduce fibre to the kerb (known as FTTC) as the next evolution of technology, again it has an upgrade path that will meet the needs of Australians into the future," he said.
"That applies to all our technologies, be it HFC (part of the network that uses existing pay TV cables) with the docsis 3.1 test we're doing today, fibre to the node with the test we're doing with the G. Fast technology, fixed wireless where we're looking to upgrade to higher speeds and even in the satellite where we've introduced higher data packages," he said.
Mr Ryan says the project has been able to add access to about 80,000 homes and businesses a week at the current pace of the rollout. "We're only able to achieve that sort of pace because of the multi technology approach."
But plenty of users have reported dropouts and lower than expected speeds after moving onto the NBN - something the project's chief engineer says is "inevitable".
"It's inevitable, I think, a project of this size, scale and complexity, there'll always be some problems. And inevitably there'll be some confusion in the minds of customers," he said. "It's an area we're extremely focused on, working with our retail service providers and putting more educational activity out there."
Such problems can be caused by a number of reasons such as under performing copper, ISPs not buying enough bandwidth on the NBN for their customers, or even a subpar modem in your home. But NBN execs expect overall performance to improve as more people move onto the network.
Thus far the rollout has been focusing on "under serviced" parts of Australia which a lot of the trickier installations still to come.
"We have learned a lot during the first half of the rollout. Everything we've learned we will now bring to bear to help the second half of the rollout," Mr Ryan said.