NBN FTTB: Everything you need to know

01 August 2017

Fibre-to-the-Building - or FTTB - is kind of like Fibre-to-the-Node's (FTTN) hot cousin. They share DNA, but FTTB is a far more attractive solution. That being said, unless you live in an apartment block, you won't be getting FTTB.

What is FTTB?

FTTB is an alternate version of FTTN. Fibre is run to a main distribution frame (MDF - pictured above) in a building such as an apartment block or office. Subscribers then connect to the MDF via the same copper currently being used to facilitate ADSL broadband connections.

While FTTN has received a deal of flak for the use of Australia's old copper network, users connecting to FTTB should see faster and more reliable connections. For one, the length of copper connecting a user to the MDF in their apartment is usually far shorter than the amount of copper required to connect a FTTN customer to a node on the footpath down the street.

Who is getting FTTB?

According to NBN's 2017 corporate plan, between up to 54% of premises will be connected to the National Broadband Network via FTTN or FTTB technology -- NBN doesn't currently separate these two technologies. As of 30 June 2016, FTTB has been deployed to more than 900 buildings across Australia.

If you live in an existing apartment block and connect to the internet with an ADSL connection, there's a good chance you'll end up with FTTB NBN. When it comes to new developments, the technology used to connect the building will depend on its size, and how much the developer is willing to pay. NBN will wire buildings with FTTB, and it is up to the developer as to whether individual units connect with fibre cabling or copper. 

What equipment do I need for an FTTB connection?

Since FTTB uses existing copper-wiring, you'll keep using the same phone line you use for your existing ADSL connection. You will however need a VDSL2 ready modem router. If your modem router doesn't support VDSL2 connections, you'll need to upgrade it.

To check the compatibility of your modem, look at the at the row of ports across the back of your modem to locate a phone jack labelled VDSL. If not, look under the modem for a label with a serial number. Most compatible modems with say 'ADSL2+/VDSL2' or something similar.

If you sign up for a 24-month internet contract, your telco will almost certainly include a VDSL2 compatible modem with your plan.

You'll use a RJ11 phone cable to connect your modem to the phone socket. Almost every single modem router includes one of these in the box. VDSL2 modem routers also require a dedicated power source, and as such, a spare electrical outlet.

How fast is FTTB?

Given the shorter length of copper between the fibre and a user, customers connected to the National Broadband Network via FTTB should - in most cases - be able to get download speeds close to 100Mbps and upload speeds of 40Mbps.

Your theoretical maximum download speeds will be determined by the type of connection you pay for. A basic NBN connection will provide speeds of up to 12Mbps. The next step up is 25Mbps, followed by 50Mbps, and 100Mbps.

The quality of copper in your building, your provider, and congestion during peak hours do however mean you won't always achieve the top speed attainable on the tier.

How much does FTTB cost?

All fixed-line NBN plans use a similar pricing structure, regardless of the connection technology in question. For example, if you're looking at a Telstra NBN plan you'll pay the same amount whether your house or business is connected via FTTP, FTTN, FTTB, or HFC.

National Broadband Network plans vary from telco to telco, with pricing dependent on speed tier, data, and over-the-top inclusions such as entertainment bundles. However, as a rule of thumb, basic fixed-line National Broadband Network are comparable to ADSL broadband in terms of price. You shouldn't find it will cost you more to connect to the NBN.

Related: NBN Guide - What you need to know

Compare broadband plans from the following providers...