People may be confused when doing research on nbn™ – plentiful technical terms, massive relevant information, etc. However, nbn™ is a lot simpler than people usually think. Here are some basic information for the three most common nbn™ connection types – FTTP, FTTN and FTTC.
Unfortunately, people are not able to choose which type of nbn™ connection at a certain premise – but it is better to understand what you’ve got from nbn™ infrastructure.
- Definitions of FTTP, FTTN and FTTC
FTTP – Fibre to the premises utilises fibre optic cable to connect your premises directly to nbn™ network. In order for this connection to work, a utility box will be required to be installed outside of your premises in addition to a connection box which is installed inside the premises. FTTP is the best nbn™ connection type of technology which is more consistent in its delivery of ultrafast internet speed. You will need to connect a router into Network Termination Device (NTD) to access Internet service.
FTTN – Fibre to the Node utilises fibre optic cable to the nearest node to your premises. The signal from the optic fibre cable then travels down through existing copper lines to the primary telephone wall socket. A VDSL 2 compatible modem router is required for this type of connection to work.
FTTC – Fibre to the Curb is the newest technology available in which it is capable of bringing optic fibre cables almost all the way to your premises. The connection then travels through existing copper cables into the home for quick and stable internet. A nbn™ connection device, short for NCD, is then set up within the premises and then connected to the primary telephone wall socket. You will need to connect a router into nbn™ NCD to access Internet service.
All these three connection types utilise fibre optic cable, and the main difference between them is the percentage of fibre optic cable used. FTTP connections consist of 100% fibre, while FTTN and FTTC connections are the mix of fibre optic cable and copper wires. The connection technologies are also different – the basic of FTTN and FTTC is still the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology (although much more advanced), but it is already abandoned in FTTP connections.
- Pros and Cons
Speed must be the most concerned factor for Internet users. FTTP is considered as the premium service level and has the fastest speed among all three connection types. The typical speed range offered by a FTTP connection is up to100Mbps for downloads and 40Mbps for uploads. For some newly developed premises and apartment buildings, the speed can achieve 1Gbps for downloads and 400Mbps for uploads.
By contrast, the theoretical maximum speed of FTTN and FTTC connections is not as fast as FTTP because the copper phone line is involved as parts of connections. A typical nbn™ plan connected by FTTN can offer up to 100Mbps for downloads. However, the FTTN connections are more prone to be interfered, and as a result FTTN connections have the lowest percentage of maximum plan speed in average. According to ACCC, FTTN connections can only reach 89.6% of the upper speed limit in peak hours compared to the 100.4% for FTTP and 97.8% for FTTC. Moreover, the 100Mbps nbn™ plan cannot be offered to some addresses if the length of copper to the closest nbn™ node is too long.
Although FTTC is also a hybrid copper/fibre connection type, it is much more stable and faster than FTTN. The current theoretical speed of FTTC connections is 200Mbps for downloads and 100Mbps for uploads (although most ISPs only offer FTTC plans up to 100Mbps). The distance of copper has resulted in the difference – the average length of copper phone cabling of FTTN is 400 meters as reported, while FTTC connections might be only as short as tens of meters. nbn™ have announced to upgrade the existing FTTC connections to 1Gbps, and the 8Gbps downloading speed over twisted pairs for FTTC has also been successfully achieved in lab trials.
For all connection types, the costs of nbn™ plans are almost identical to customers under the same speed tier. The only difference is that premises connected via FTTP may have higher tier/faster plans available to choose, which will cost more.
The cost of infrastructure for FTTP, FTTN and FTTC significantly varies, but all of these costs will be covered by nbn™ and customers will not need to pay anything. The only exception is the new development charge (usually $300) which might be applicable in some new dwellings. In general FTTP has the highest cost for infrastructure, followed by FTTC and FTTN has the lowest cost.
2.3 Deployment and Installation
Compared to FTTP and FTTC, FTTN is the easiest connection type to deploy as it utilises the existing copper phone lines. According to nbn™ 2021 corporate plan, by September 2020 36% of homes are connected by FTTN, 17% for FTTP and 13% for FTTC. nbn™ Co have also announced to invest $3.5 billion to upgrade FTTN connections to FTTC and FTTP.
For customers who are willing to upgrade their connection type to FTTP, nbn™ have offered the Technology Choice Program with a fee. Customers may get a free quote from the website. Unfortunately, at the moment only the FTTP upgrade is available, customers are not able to upgrade to other type of connections (e.g. FTTN to FTTC).
For FTTP connected premises, nbn™ have already pre-installed a nbn™ utility box and a nbn™ connection box outside and inside the premise for free. Customers only need to prepare a router connecting with the connection box in order to connect with nbn™. Premises without the nbn™ equipments are not FTTP ready.
It is optional for customers to install a battery supply unit with additional fee, which is able to provide up to five hours Internet service during a power outage.
All FTTC connections will need a nbn™ connection box (provided by nbn™ for free) to be connected to the wall socket. In some cases, nbn™ might post the nbn™ connection box directly to the premise and customers need to self-install it. Similar with FTTP, customers need to prepare their own router and connect it to the nbn™ connection box.
FTTN connections are slightly different. nbn™ do not install any boxes or equipment either inside or outside the properties for FTTN connections. Customers need to prepare a VDSL2 compatible modem router in order to successfully connect to nbn™. To check if a modem router is VDSL2 compatible or not, customers may either search online or contact their ISP to confirm.
2.4 Long-term policy considerations
Based on nbn™ corporate report, FTTP and FTTC connections are considered superior compared to FTTN.
In a long time run, FTTP and FTTC connections are more cost-efficient. Both of them have lower operation and maintenance costs, and provide faster Internet speeds. Although a FTTP connection costs more initially ($4400 per household in average, while FTTN is $2100), FTTP connections have much longer lifecycle (20-40 years vs 5-20 years) and much shorted payback period (11 years vs 27 years). Moreover, nbn™ have focused on the development of FTTC technologies in labs, as FTTC has a much higher theoretical transmission speed compared to FTTN.
FTTP, FTTN and FTTC are the three most common nbn™ connection types in the metropolitan area. FTTP connections are able to offer the fastest speed and most stable connection among all nbn™ connection types. The performance of FTTC connections might not be as superior as FTTP, but the difference between them can be minimised in most cases. In contrast, FTTN connections have some remarkable drawbacks (reliability, speed, etc.) due to the copper wires used. Although FTTP and FTTC are only available to some selected addresses at the moment, but it is a growing trend for them to be rolling out and replacing FTTN.