NBN FTTP: Everything you need to know

01 August 2017

Fibre-to-the-Premises - or FTTP - is a core technology being used for Australia's National Broadband Network rollout. If you're home is connected to the NBN by fibre, lucky you. This is one of the best broadband connections available in Australia.

What is FTTP?

FTTP is where a home or business is directly connected to the National Broadband Network through the use of fibre optic cable. 

The use of fibre means that FTTP connections can more consistently deliver advertised speeds, regardless of the distance between your home and the broader network. FTTP connections are also capable of faster download speeds; customers will eventually be able to get connections as fast as 1Gbps, or 10 times faster than the other technologies being used for the National Broadband Network. 

FTTP was the original model for building the National Broadband Network, first proposed by the initial Rudd Labor Government. FTTP was originally meant to replace Telstra's aging copper infrastructure, with fibre being run directly to 93% of Australian premises.

However, when the Coalition government took power in 2013, they restructured the National Broadband Network rollout to make use of what's being called a multi-technology mix (MTM). While satellite and fixed wireless were always part of the original plan, the Coalition's approach also includes using existing copper (Fibre-to-the-Node, or FTTN) and HFC wiring to facilitate connections. 

The move away from FTTP has been the centre of much controversy. FTTN advocates say it is cheaper and faster to deploy, while still delivering similar speeds. FTTN detractors claim the technology isn't future-proof, and the reliance on copper will counteract initial savings by increasing maintenance fees and upgrade costs down the line.

Who is getting FTTP?

According to NBN's 2017 corporate plan, between 17% and 21% of premises will be connect to the National Broadband Network via FTTP.

In most cases, FTTP connections will only be available in areas where work on the National Broadband Network commenced before the change in government in 2013 or in areas where no copper or HFC currently exists. In new housing estates, for example.

However, if you desperately want fibre - and if you've got a FTTN or FTTB NBN connection - you can pay to have fibre laid from the node or MDF to your house or apartment. This is referred to as an "individual premises switch". This process can be quite costly though, with the initial application fee and build quote billed at a total of $660. 

The actual cost of extending fibre directly to a premise will vary depending on the length, size, and complexity of the project, but could be reduced if multiple premises connecting to the same node want to change technology. NBN hasn't provided fixed pricing for an individual premises switch, but says it cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

What equipment do I need for an FTTP connection?

If your building is connected to the National Broadband Network via an FTTP connection, NBN will install a few pieces of tech inside and outside your house. These include a utility box on the outside wall of your house, a network termination device (NTD, or connection box) inside, and a power supply with backup battery to go with it. NBN covers the cost of these installations.

There's no hard and fast guidelines as to where the NTD and power supply are installed within your place, but they do need to be in distance of a power outlet. You're also better off not putting your NTD in your bedroom, given the flashing lights and all.

The only piece of equipment you'll need to provide yourself is a wireless router, which will ostensibly share your connection with the rest of your house. If you sign up for a 24-month internet contract, your telco will almost certainly include an NBN-ready router with your plan.

You'll use an Ethernet cable to connect your router to your NTD. Almost every single modem router includes one of these in the box. Routers also require a dedicated power source, and as such, a spare electrical outlet.

How fast is FTTP?

Widely available FTTP plans offer download speeds of up to 100Mbps and upload speeds of up to 40Mbps. Given the direct fibre connection, you should consistently get the speeds you pay for, regardless of your distance from your local Fibre Access Node. Congestion can still however affect FTTP speeds during peak times, depending on your provider and their network's capacity.

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

While 100Mbps are the fastest FTTP speeds commonly available, the FTTP network can achieve download speeds of up to 1Gbps down, and 400Mbps up. Other speed tiers include 500Mbps down / 200Mbps up, and 250Mbps down / 100Mbps up. At present, availability of these high-speed plans is scarce.

Node1 and SkyMesh both offer a 100Mbps down / 100Mbps up plan utilising FTTP technology, and Node1 also has a 200Mbps down / 200Mbps up plan. While these plans are based on the aforementioned higher speed tiers, download speeds are shaped so that the connection appears to be synchronous (which in turn, reduces the amount a broadband provider has to pay NBN for capacity).

What happens to my home phone?

NBN will eventually phase out the old copper phone services we use today, and replace them with similar services delivered by the internet. Home phones will connect to “UNI-V” phone services, provided by your internet supplier. 

UNI-V is compatible with old analogue phone systems, so you can keep your existing handset, but you do need to have your provider switch your service over so you can keep your old number. 

Every NBN Connection Box comes with two UNI-V ports, which gives you the option to have two different UNI-V service providers. You might use one for family phone calls and the other for a business purpose, for example. 

The downside to a UNI-V connection is that, unlike the current analogue system, it relies on electricity to work. If you have a power outage, the NBN Connection box will revert to a Backup Power Supply Unit, which will keep you online for 5-hours. After this, you won’t be able to make phone calls from your landline until power is restored.

How much does FTTP cost?

All fixed-line National Broadband Network plans use a similar pricing structure, regardless of the connection technology in question. For example, if you're looking at a monthly Telstra NBN plan, it will cost the same whether your house or business is connected via FTTP, FTTN, or HFC.

However, if you're looking at FTTP plans at speeds faster than 100Mbps down / 40Mbps up, you can expect to pay a further premium for these offerings, especially given the fact they're typically tailored toward businesses.

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. The NBN plan does have the benefit of faster speeds, and subscribers can further increase their speed if they wish.

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