The NBN has become something of an alphabet soup – there are acronyms and abbreviations aplenty. Most of us haven’t studied networking 101 and so it can be hard to get our heads around all the jargon. We’ll hopefully explain it simply so you know what connection you’ll eventually get when the NBN comes to your place. Here are the different technologies used in the multi-technology mix network.
Fibre to the node (FTTN)
Unless you live in a unit, new development or rural area, you’re likely to get fibre to the node (FTTN) NBN. This technology will form the largest part of the NBN. Fibre optic cable runs to a local node (connection cabinet) in a street in your area and then connects to the existing copper phone lines to your place. The cabinet handles connections for up to 1000 premises.
The node system uses VDSL (vectored or enhanced DSL) technology that improves ADSL connections on existing copper phone lines. VDSL is able to cancel the interference, or crosstalk, between the copper lines from the telephone exchange in order to speed up the transfer rate of internet traffic.
You’ll need a new VDSL modem, but no new hardware needs to be installed in the home. Your existing home phone should plug into the VDSL modem, which is connected to the existing phone port inside your house. If you don’t want the internet but you do want a phone service, you’ll need a new VoIP phone that plugs into the existing phone socket because the calls are now carried via the internet over the copper line.
Fibre to the curb (FTTC)
Fibre to the curb (FTTC), also known as FTTdp, has recently been included in the technology mix of the NBN where fibre is run right to the telecom pit at the front of the premises. NBN recently announced that a further 300, 000 premises will get the newer FTTC instead of FTTN. FTTC does away with the need to dig into driveways, lawns and yards but uses less copper than FTTN and does not require a powered cabinet. The FTTC services using VDSL technology for the copper section are expected to launch in 2018.
Fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp)
Fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp) is sometimes also called ‘fibre to the driveway’ because fibre runs to a local distribution point such as the street pit at your front fence and then connects to copper to your premises. It means that much shorter lengths of copper are used, making speed enhancements via technology, such as G.Fast, possible. It does away with the need to build, power and maintain the node cabinets, reducing this cost. Nbn™ trialled FTTdp in areas where the copper run is too long to use vectored or enhanced, ADSL – known as VDSL – to deliver speed improvements. It is also known as fibre to the curb (FTTC) in Australia.
There’s been a bit of talk in the media about ‘skinny fibre’. No, it’s not a new breakfast cereal, but rather an optical fibre that is thinner than conventional fibre because there are fewer strands of fibre in the casing. It’s easier to physically pull skinny fibre through the street-level pipes and ducts, which in turns means it’s easier and cheaper to run fibre closer to premises. Nbn™ has been trialling skinny fibre in local neighbourhood loops, which is also known as a ‘local fibre network’. It’s reduced the NBN connection cost by $450 per premises and the construction time by four weeks. Skinny fibre could potentially be used with an FTTdp model that does away with nodes to bring fibre to the driveway.
HFC (pay TV network)
Foxtel and Optus pay TV is delivered to homes through hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cable, which is getting a makeover and being brought into the NBN. The existing HFC network needs to be upgraded and newly installed in some unit blocks that don’t currently have an HFC connection. Nbn™ has been running trials to test the speeds achievable on the network and plans to use a technology specification called DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications) to improve the speed of the HFC connections. There’s expected to be some four million homes and businesses that will connect to the NBN in the HFC footprint. If your place gets the NBN via HFC, a new DOCSIS modem will be needed.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP)
Once upon a time, the network for all fixed-line (not fixed wireless or satellite) connections was going to be all fibre. This was changed when the current government came into power and decided to use existing technology such as copper phone lines and pay TV cables that are already running to almost every residence and building.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP) NBN, as the name suggests. runs fibre optic cable right to the dwelling. This full-fibre connection requires an ‘NBN utility box’ to be fixed to the outside of your premises, and an ‘NBN connection box’ installed inside your premises that will connect to your computer, router and phone. There’s also an optional backup battery box for inside the premises.
A new NBN modem and router may be needed and your existing phone and internet services will be disconnected 18 months after the new service is active, but you’ll get notification from Nbn™ and your ISP. The existing ADSL and phone connections in the house will no longer work after the cut-off.
Your landline phone number can be retained if moved before old network switch-off. Mobile, wireless and satellite services will not be disrupted. Home security services may need to be upgraded so check with your supplier and you’ll need to add your medical alarm to the NBN register.
If you’re a pensioner, check if you qualify for a discount for phone and internet services with your ISP. Telstra is required to offer phone services for low-income households and priority assistance services on the NBN.
Fibre to the building or basement (FTTB)
If you live in an apartment, then you’ll probably see FTTB. Fibre to the building or basement (FTTB) runs fibre to the connection point in multi-dwelling units such as office blocks and apartments and then links to individual connections to each unit. Nbn™ has launched some services already and is planning to connect one million homes and businesses using FTTB services.
The NBN is expanding the fixed wireless network for those in rural and regional areas. The wireless service requires an external antenna on your roof and an internal connection box inside your house that’s connected to the power. Your roof antenna connects to the NBN wireless tower that is connected back to the network with fibre cable. You need a modem/router with Wi-Fi for internal household connections.
If you live in a remote area, you’re probably already using a satellite service, which uses a satellite dish on the premises to receive the internet from a ground transmitter in another location. Last year saw the launch of the first of two satellites that will boost internet access for people living in rural and remote areas. The Sky Muster satellite should bring faster broadband services to 400,000 homes and dwellings, and retail ISP plans are now being offered. Nbn™ is promising wholesale speeds of 25Mbps upload and 5Mbps download. The Interim Satellite Service is due to shut down in late February which means that any premises still on that service need to move to a new service themselves because the transition is not automatic.