NBN Co talks up potential of HFC, wireless

50Mbps wireless coming to National Broadband Network, gigabit speeds a possibility for HFC

NBN Co has talked up a planned increase to the maximum speed offered on the fixed wireless component of the National Broadband Network and the potential of the company's HFC network to hit gigabit speeds.

NBN Co intends to unveil a 50 megabits per second offering on its fixed wireless network, the company's CEO, Bill Morrow, said today during a presentation on the company's half-year results.

"Being a wireless guy for a number of decades, this fixed wireless effort that we have here in Australia is probably one of the most advanced, sophisticated approaches to putting a fixed wireless technology in place," the CEO said.

The company reported that as of the end of December there were 27,292 premises with National Broadband Network fixed wireless services, compared to 6512 premises at the end of 2013.

"Premises serviceable have doubled to 159,000," the CEO said.

"There are 217 sites right now that have been acquired and that's the most difficult, lengthy part of the build and we have 157 base stations that are ready for service," Morrow said.

Previously NBN Co has capped fixed wireless download speeds at 25Mbps, "but because this is performing so well we can raise the service offering up to 50 megabits per second without a degradation to any users, to any services, without capital investment," Morrow said.

NBN Co is working on a 50Mbps product and will announce the timing for it in "due course," Morrow said.

A 50/20Mbps fixed wireless product was included on the company's January product roadmap.


Ahead of its half-year results announcement, NBN Co earlier this week revealed it had signed a contract with ARRIS to upgrade to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard the hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) networks that NBN Co is obtaining from Optus and Telstra.

Of the five technologies being used for the 'multi-technology mix' NBN, HFC is the technology that Morrow "is most excited about," the CEO said.

"I am absolutely convinced that this technology is a technology of choice around the world with huge amounts of R&D constantly going into it," Morrow said. "It is where we see companies now that go head-to-head with fibre to the prem carriers, because this is a viable technology that will give amazing speeds."

ARRIS is "one of the top vendors in this space," Morrow said.

The CEO said there had been "some confusion" about the performance that can be expected from NBN Co's HFC products.

"The cables that we are taking form Telstra and Optus are merely the transmission medium," the Morrow said.

"We are going to upgrade the electronics that are associated with this, so it will not be what current users of the HFC networks across these two companies are experiencing," he said.

"We are going to ensure that DOCSIS 3.0... is universal across the network."

NBN Co trials using DOCSIS 3.0 have achieved speeds of 376Mbps down and 49Mbps up.

"Now that's great in itself, but the good news behind this is that's not even using all of the spectrum bandwidth that's available on these coaxial cables that we will use, so that number will go up," Morrow said.

An eventual upgrade of the HFC network to DOCSIS 3.1 "is going to take it to a far different level," Morrow said. DOCSIS 3.1 trials have shown gigabit speeds, he added.

There are only limited gigabit offerings in Australia, the CEO said. "The fact that we're going to be able to do this with our HFC network the fact that that HFC network is a far lower maintenance element than any of the other metallic-based, copper delivery services is good news for the consumer," he added.

"The fact that we're getting this asset virtually for free from these two carriers means that that cost per premises element on this super-high-speed, easy to maintain, good product is going to be good for the taxpayer.

"So I don't think HFC has been understood well enough to realise how great this is for us, for the nation, and again for our overall budget of building out this network."

"It is very, very exciting," Morrow said.

Long Term Satellite Service

The first satellite for NBN Co's Long Term Satellite Service was due to have launched earlier this year, Morrow said.

The launch was scheduled for July but has been delayed to the "October/November time frame," Morrow said. The delay is due to a company that will have another payload on the rocket not sticking to its manufacturing schedule

"As a result, there is a delay in our launch." Morrow said. However, there is a buffer built into NBN Co's LTSS schedule.

"Therefore the launch of the commercial service is not jeopardised," Morrow said. The LTSS is due to be operational in the first half of 2016.

Fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-basement

Construction is now underway for the 11 trial sites for fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), Morrow said. Those sites cover more than 200,000 premises across two states.

"We will see the product release and go to market in the first quarter of the next financial year, which is this July-September timeframe of 2015," Morrow said.

End user FTTN trials have produced "fantastic results," Morrow said.

"This is going to be a solid network that is going to give great speeds and a good experience for the consumer."

FTTB is "progressing really well also," the NBN Co CEO said.

"Design and construction is underway for 6000 apartments across three different states," with NBN Co aiming to have 2000 premises ready for service by the end of next month, the CEO said.

The release of NBN Co's FTTB product is "imminent."

"Here again, speed trials, experiences [are] so positive for us we're seeing a shift and an evolution around the planet of people really focussing on this, saying this is such a good product, it's such an easier way to install, to get into the multi-dwelling units that exist."

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