nbn™ switches on first Telstra HFC-powered broadband services

100/40Mbps services available to 2,300 Perth homes

nbn™, the entity building and operating Australia's national broadband network (NBN), has announced its first services delivered over the hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) cables formerly owned by Australia's dominant carrier Telstra.

Ocean Reef, a suburb of the Western Australian capital Perth is the lucky recipient of the new service, which nbn™ says can deliver up to 100/40Mbps.

Three internet service providers - Optus, TPG and Exetel – can apparently take orders for HFC services at the very moment you read this story, if you reside in one of the 2,300 premises where the services are now available. Prices have not been revealed at the time of writing.

Last week, nbn™ softened up the market with a tame analyst report that found – surprise! - that HFC is a very good broadband medium. Now nbn™ gets to prove it with actual customers.

nbn™'s canned launch statement points out that it “... will actually be one of the first operators in the world to deliver open access wholesale services over an HFC network” and that the company has “broken a lot of new ground in these last couple of years” to achieve the milestone of a service launch.

No pressure then, seeing as if nbn™ flubs this rollout a big part of its plans to wire Australia will fray: the company plans to serve three million premises with HFC, 900,000 of which will be ready for service by June 2017.

Interestingly, the company expects only 200,000 will be active by that date. Which hardly indicates enthusiasm for the NBN full stop. And may also raise eyebrows about the billions nbn™ paid to get its hands on Telstra's and Optus' HFC network.

Any failure or hiccups will also reflect very badly on Telstra, which won contracts to re-build the HFC network for broadband use.

Critics have warned that Telstra's role building the HFC parts of the NBN could give it an advantage once retail services commence. In this case, Telstra's not even bothering to retail services on day one, so perhaps the Chinese Walls are working inside NBN. Or perhaps Telstra just couldn't get ready for day one sales. It is, after all, a bit busy fixing its busted networks and finding a chief operating officer to oversee them. ®

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