Tony Brown

With 5.7 million premises now able to order an nbn service – the construction of the nbn™ network is now more than halfway to completion.

When the creation of the ‘National Broadband Network’ was announced in April 2009, there were plenty of people who doubted the network would ever actually be completed, such was the magnitude of the task confronting the company.

For us to now be more than halfway through the build and focusing on delivering the network to eight million homes and businesses by 2020 is really something quite extraordinary.

The project has come a long way since those early days and there have been plenty of challenges along the way, but the end goal has always remained the same – to deliver a great broadband network to homes and businesses across Australia.

The start

When construction of the nbn™ network began in 2010, the original aim was to deliver Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) to 93% of end users with the remaining 7% of premises to be served by Fixed Wireless and Satellite by 2020.

We connected our first FTTP premises in 2010, but the early deployment was tough going as nbn and our Delivery Partners faced challenges while the scale of the task facing the company became more apparent.

There was some better news when we got our world leading Fixed Wireless network off the ground in 2012, delivering a world class broadband network to parts of Australia that had previously struggled with a lack of or limited broadband infrastructure.

Changing course

The Federal Election of 2013 saw a review of the nbn project take place, which led to the adoption of the Multi Technology Mix (MTM) with new technologies such as Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB), Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) and Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) come into play.

The turnaround did not happen overnight, so while the FTTP and Fixed Wireless deployments continued through 2014, nbn went to work bringing the new MTM technologies to life.

In February 2015, we launched our first MTM technology with the launch of FTTB services in Melbourne and around six months later we launched our first commercial FTTN services in Belmont, NSW.

During the early days of the FTTB and FTTN deployments, nbn cranked up the construction engine with our Delivery Partners – by the time we hit the middle of 2016, the numbers were really starting to be put on the board with 3 million premises ready for service (RFS) and 1 million activated services.

Next stop was the commercial launch of our HFC services in June 2016, with our first services deployed in Redcliffe, QLD.

Just three months later we announced that we would be the first operator in the world to launch services with ground breaking Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) technology.

nbn has committed to delivering FTTC to an initial 1 million premises in areas where it is more suitable to be deployed than either FTTN or FTTP, with commercial services currently slated to start in the first half of 2018.

Aiming for the sky

Although there have been many highs during the last eight years, more than a few folks at nbn would nominate the successful launch of the Sky Muster™ satellite into orbit from French Guiana in October 2015 as their top moment at nbn.

That launch enabled nbn to launch our commercial Sky Muster™ services in April 2016, delivering wholesale speeds of 25/5Mbps to some of the most remote places in the world and bringing high speed broadband to the bush for the first time.

We followed up the launch of our first satellite with the successful launch of Sky MusterII in October 2016 and it is now delivering a world-class service.

Looking to the future

While nbn is building a network that meets the needs of Australians today, we have a firm eye on the future and have conducted numerous trials of emerging technologies to help us stay on top of future technologies.

In 2015 we trialled new copper technology, G.fast, in Melbourne and achieved stunning speeds of 600Mbps in an FTTB trial and the following year were one of the first operators in the world to trial next-generation copper technology, XG.FAST, achieving incredible speeds of 8Gbps.

It has been a similar story on our Fixed Wireless network where earlier this year we used Carrier Aggregation technology to deliver pioneering 1Gbps speeds on our TD-LTE network as we announced the launch of new 100Mbps Fixed Wireless services in 2018, up from the current maximum for that technology of 50Mbps.

Indeed, the broadband world has changed massively over these last eight years since nbn came into being – underlining why it is so crucial for nbn to keep its eye on the technology radar.

Back in 2009, if you wanted to deliver 100Mbps to an end user then you really had to go with an FTTP connection – but now the options are much broader. While HFC networks were capable of 100Mbps back in 2009, upload speeds on HFC were still much lower back then.

In 2017, not only can FTTN deliver wholesale speeds of up to 100Mbps downstream, but HFC is now delivering wholesale speeds of up to 1Gbps thanks to DOCSIS 3.1 technology. 1Gbps speeds are possible via FTTC, and 4G – as well as future 5G – technologies are getting closer and closer to delivering 1Gbps speeds.

It’s about the end users!

While nbn has been busy building Australia a wholesale broadband network, end users have been doing exactly what we wanted them to do with it: downloading more and more data!

For the first couple of years, data usage on the nbn™ network was quite steady – from February 2014 to February 2015 total data usage increased only marginally from 74GB/month to 83GB/month – but then in March 2015 along came Netflix, Stan and the other streaming video players and usage spiked sharply.

In the March–April 2015 period, average usage on the nbn™ network spiked 15% in a single month and has pretty much been rising consistently ever since with average usage now sitting at more than 150GB/month.

Interestingly, while data usage has continued to increase, we are still finding that most end users are, via their retail service provider, choosing the wholesale up to 12/1Mbps and up to 25/5Mbps speed,s with only around 16% taking the wholesale up to 100/40Mbps services.

However, with DOCSIS 3.1 and G.fast maturing nicely in the global market – not to mention the rapid maturing of 4G and 5G technologies – we are confident we have the technologies in place to meet any future demand for higher speeds on the nbn™ network.

Check your address to see if you can connect to the nbn™ network.

Tony Brown

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