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'Mixed tech' NBN needs a super-sized HFC net

Costs will blow out, 2016 delivery a dream

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Even to miss its original cost targets and 2016 deadline, the federal government's “mixed technology” National Broadband Network is going to require a significant expansion of the subscriber capacity of the country's HFC networks, the NBN strategic review has found.

The report (PDF) shows that the new government's forecasting capacity is almost as good as its predecessor's: rather than the $AU29.5 billion of the then-opposition's estimate, the mix of fibre, twisted pair and HFC delivery will need $AU41 billion.

Neither is there joy on the project timing, with the review finding that the 2016 deadline for “25 Mbps to all Australians” is unrealistic, and the 2019 targets are similarly unachievable.

The government now says that by 2016, 43 percent of Australians will have access to its 25 Mbps services, with 91 percent to receive 50 Mbps by 2019, and between 65 and 75 percent to reach 100 Mbps services by 2019. At completion, it says its network will comprise 26 percent fibre-to-the-premises, 44 percent fibre to the node, and 30 percent HFC connections.

That would represent a significant expansion of HFC connectivity. If there are 11 million households by 2020, HFC connections would exceed 3 million – which would mean significant upgrades to the HFC infrastructure so it would be able to service such a high proportion of its footprint.

Currently, 1.3 million premises are passed by HFC networks but are unserviced (that is, have no coax lead-in). The report notes that nodes would have to be split, equipment upgraded, and technology upgraded to accommodate those users as well as the ability to deliver 50 Mbps by 2019.

It's worth nothing that customers within the HFC footprint, but currently connected to DSL (generally for servicability reasons) are not promised an upgrade.

While not discussing the cost of copper remediation, NBN Co chair Ziggy Switkowski told the Australian Broadcasting Corporations “The World Today” programme that the company will conducting tests “from virtually every cabinet in the country” (about 70,000 as far as The Register is aware) to check the state of the copper.

The Register would have had a more detailed analysis of the strategic review, but was somehow excluded from the budget-style lock-up held today for the release of the review. ®

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