nbn™ is installing new hybrid-fibre coax cables

The plan is to infill HFC-rich areas to create homogenous service zones

nbn™, the organisation building and operating Australia's National Broadband Network, is installing new hybrid-fibre coax cables in some suburbs.

The new build came to light after a Reg reader looked up nbn™'s new “when am I getting the NBN?” service, which was recently upgraded to advise what technology will be used to connect each premises.

Our reader plugged in his address and was surprised to find he would soon be offered a hybrid-fibre coax connection, because “... the small estate where I live has no HFC from Telstra or Optus because it was built after the HFC rollout and the developer never asked for it to be installed.”

“The nearest bit of HFC kit is at least 300m away.”

We asked nbn™ about this and was told that our reader had encountered a feature, not a bug in the lookup service.

Nbn™ told The Register that it is conducting “‘infill’ of parts of HFC areas that were never covered and ‘extension’ into new areas (often right next to streets where HFC is already deployed).”

The Register understands the company adopts those tactics in order to ensure that each of the “rollout areas” it designs uses the same technology as far as is possible, to ensure homogeneity within those areas.

Australia's HFC networks were rolled out in the 1990s by rival telcos Optus and Telstra to carry pay television services. Your correspondent covered that rollout in a past professional life and recalls that locations for the network build were determined, in part, by the density of possible connections. Pay television subscriptions in Australia have never grown much beyond 30 per cent market penetration, a figure that wasn't too far from Telstra's and Optus' expectations of adoption. So if the two telcos saw a suburb or street with only a few dwellings, they sometimes decided there was little chance of recouping the cost of a cable rollout and just skipped the street. This policy meant that even affluent areas where customers were likely to subscribe to pay television could sometimes be spared the rollout!

We offer that history lesson to explain why there's infill and extension for nbn™ to do.

nbn™ says its HFC-based service will use DOCSIS 3.1, the standard that can deliver 10Gbps downloads under some circumstances and has a 10Gbps upstream channel under development.

Lobby group Internet Australia, which has emerged as the loudest voice in Australia's broadband debate, opposes use of fibre-to-the-node in the NBN technology on grounds it cannot adapt to deliver download speeds that may be required in the future. The group is largely silent on HFC. ®


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