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nbn introduces DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs this month

No high-speed tiers to accompany launch of higher speed network

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, is set to begin installing new HFC Network Termination Devices (NTDs) at the end of this month to allow them to connect to the upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 network.

nbn’s NTD is a customised CM8200B DOCSIS 3.1 modem from Arris, who successfully won a tender to supply the network equipment.

nbn's new HFC Network Termination Device capable of DOCSIS 3.1
nbn’s new HFC Network Termination Device capable of DOCSIS 3.1 (Source: nbn co)

nbn had initially planned to begin deploying its DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs in December 2016. This has been pushed back by a month to the end of January 2017, with the company issuing an amendment to its Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA2).

In their notification letter to Access Seekers, nbn states that it intends to “introduce the new CM8200B (DOCSIS 3.1) HFC-NTD deploying on all HFC installations from end January 2017”.


No speed increase despite upgrade

Despite touting the speed capabilities of the new DOCSIS 3.1 modems, nbn will not launch new speed tiers to accompany the launch of the new modems.

In November 2015, nbn’s Chief Technology Officer penned a blog post saying that new modems by Arris will be capable of delivering “a stunning 5Gbps downstream and 2Gbps upstream”.

However, the maximum speed tier nbn will offer over the HFC network will remain at 100/40 Mbps. The January 2017 Integrated Deployment Plan also shows no future plans to introduce higher speed tiers already available the NBN Fibre network.

DOCSIS 3.1 promises to provide improved network performance and speeds through increased modulation orders and wider spectrum utilisation.

The new NTD will also have a second Ethernet port, however, the port will be disabled and covered by a sticker at launch.

NBN HFC self-install to become default

HFC installation premium for customers with existing lead-ins amongst changes in latest NBN product roadmap

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated its product roadmap for the third quarter of 2016. Here is a summary of some of the key changes:

HFC product

nbn’s HFC product launched at the end of last month in a limited footprint in Redcliffe region in Queensland (PR044). The company also recently signed a contract with six delivery partners to upgrade and rollout the existing Telstra HFC footprint for nbn’s use.

Self-install to become default
As part of the current rollout strategy, nbn will send an installer to install the HFC Network Termination Device (NTD) at the customer’s premises when a service is ordered. However, the company plans to implement an RSP install and customer install option by the end of first and second quarter of 2017 respectively (PR112, PR129).

Once this process is implemented, nbn will begin charging customers who already have an existing lead-in a professional NTD installation a fee if they request for one.

Other HFC planned products
Deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs remain on-track for upgrade by the end of 2016 (CE045).

nbn also plans to introduce service transfers on HFC by September 2016 (PR121), as well as various diagnostic capabilities for Traffic Class 1 services.

The company does not plan to offer business grade “Traffic Class 2” tiers over HFC until 2018 or beyond (PR118).

NBN Satellite Service

ISS migration period extended
The migration of nbn’s existing Interim Satellite Service (ISS) customers to the new “Sky Muster” Long Term Satellite (LTS) service has been extended out until February 2017 (PR023). nbn had originally planned to migrate all its existing ISS customers to the Long Term Satellite solution by the end of 2016.

However, teething issues appeared to have hampered the originally anticipated activation rate — shifting the expected end date for the migration by two months.

There have been numerous reports of missed appointments, inability for NBN NTD modems to reconnect after a power reboot and most recently, the decision to retain the existing ISS satellite service after an LTS installation and retrospectively visit the customer to remove the ISS dish.

Consultation on “Managed Services Education” over Satellite
nbn is investigating the possibility of providing enhanced services for distance education students. The company has listed a number of possible products including a managed unmetered data service and multicast video broadcast services over its LTS service. Consultation on this service is expected to begin in September 2017.

Consultation on “Satellite Mobility” which could enable services like on-board Wi-Fi or Internet access for emergency services in remote areas has also been pushed back slightly to September (PR123).

Cell Site Access Service

As reported earlier, nbn concluded its initial Cell Access trial and has begun offering a Cell Site Access Service (CSAS) test service in Beaudesert, Queensland (PR039).

DOCSIS 3.1 coming to nbn at the end of the year

Company to retrospectively replace end user equipment to enable higher speeds using new cable broadband technology

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated its Integrated Product Roadmap — revealing that it will be upgrading its HFC network termination device (NTD) to the DOCSIS 3.1 standard in the fourth quarter of 2016.

nbn is still yet to officially launch their HFC product, which is still scheduled to launch in June 2016. Last month, the company revealed at a Senate Committee hearing that they still have not signed construction contracts for the HFC rollout and the initial launch will be limited to a pilot area in Redcliffe, Queensland.

Initially, nbn will utilise DOCSIS 3.0 technology to deliver services to end users. Since HFC is a shared medium, traditionally, cable networks have heavy congestion and severely reduced speed during peak hours.

DOCSIS 3.1 promises to increase capacity through increased spectral efficiency, thus easing congestion.

In-flight satellite consultation in June

NBN will also be consulting with its service providers over “a mobility solution” which will include “a wide range of applications” including in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity, emergency services and health and education.

This consultation comes as Qantas announced it will team up with ViaSat to trial in-flight Wi-Fi services by utilising the NBN satellites on select domestic flights.

Detailed analysis of the proposal conducted by jxeeno blog found it would likely have minimal impact to existing satellite congestion due to the short periods of time a plane flies over a particular NBN spot beam.

Enterprise satellite consultation in third quarter

Separately, nbn will also be consulting on the delivery of enterprise services over its satellites. While the roadmap provides no further detail on this consultation — at the last Senate Committee hearing, company executives had alluded potential use of NBN satellites in the defense department or other enterprise applications.

NBN Mobile Backhaul and TV over fibre delayed

Initially slated for launch in the first quarter of 2016, nbn has delayed the launch of the NBN cell access service (mobile backhaul over the NBN) and its inclusion of TV signals over fibre in new developments till May this year.

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NBN: no power resiliency policy for HFC Network

Unlike FTTP, FTTN and FTTB, homes and businesses in NBN’s HFC network will not be provided a power resiliency policy to deal with power outages on NBN equipment

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has revealed that it will not be providing a power resiliency policy to the NBN HFC network — expected to be launched in the second quarter of this year.

In its draft Wholesale Broadband Agreement, released to Access Seekers for HFC Business Readiness Testing (BRT) today, the company states that it has “made the decision that a general power resiliency policy […] will not be implemented for the NBN Co HFC Network” as the “NBN Co HFC Network architecture is different to that of the FTTB/N Networks”.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.24.17 am

NBN’s FTTN and FTTB network benefit from having backup batteries installed within the node enclosures, enabling a certain degree of power backup for the active equipment located on the field. NBN’s Fibre to the Premises network is entirely passive in the field — meaning it is not impacted by on-field power outages.

The HFC network, which NBN will acquire from Telstra and Optus, will replace the majority of existing copper phone and ADSL/ADSL2+ services delivered over the copper network. This means that during a power disruption on NBN’s HFC equipment, homes and businesses could be disconnected any fixed-line phone or Internet connection until NBN and its power supplier resolves the issue.

This could be a significant concern for owners of security alarms, medical alarms and lift emergency phones which depend on a resilient phone connection — especially during emergencies.

I’ve written in some more detail in a previous post on the impact of power outages on nbn’s Multi-Technology Mix technologies.  You can read more about it here.

[Source: Draft Wholesale Broadband Agreement – Product Description (HFC BRT)]

NBN to start HFC pilot in November

Pilot program expected to run until March 2016

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released a test agreement to service providers who intend to participate in an end-user HFC pilot which is expected to begin on or around 1st November 2015.  In the document, nbn states that they will use the pilot to “test NBN Co’s delivery of a Layer 2 NEBS to End User premises through the use of HFC technology, which will assist NBN Co to develop a commercial HFC Product.”

Like the current Fibre to the Premises network, nbn will install a Network Termination Device (NTD) at the end user’s premises.  However, this device will only have a single data port for interfacing with the NBN network.  The device will also neglect the voice port (UNI-V) found in the Fibre to the Premises NTD.

The pilot will enable service providers to provide trial services only to their existing HFC, copper phone line or DSL customers within the pilot HFC footprint.

nbn intends to end the pilot by 15 March 2016.  According to the latest Integrated Product Roadmap, nbn expects their HFC product to officially launch in the second quarter of 2016. [HFC Pilot Test Description]

NBN Fibre to the Node Trial at Umina Beach

nbn™ releases MTM network design rules

Following the adoption of the Multi-Technology Mix, the company responsible for building the network – nbn™, has released an updated version of the Network Design Rules document which dictates how the NBN is designed across all technologies.

In the document, dated 30th June and released today to the public, the company outlines changes to the network planning process for the MTM.  Below are some highlights:

NBN removes protected fibre paths

With the implementation of the MTM, the company has done away with the original “ring topology” in the distribution fibre network, which was designed for fault tolerance allowing at least two paths for data to flow to and from the end user in the case of damage to the fibre network.

nbn™ states that a “star DFN topology” will be used instead, citing cost efficiencies in construction:

The Star DFN topology is the default for the Fixed Access build (post-Multi Technology Mix) to achieve cost efficiencies in construction.

nbn™ is introducing the star topology for the MTM rollout to save money
nbn™ is introducing the star topology for the MTM rollout to save money
NBN has now phased out the fault tolerant "Ring Topology" DFN  used in the existing GPON FTTP network
NBN has now phased out the fault tolerant “Ring Topology” DFN used in the existing GPON FTTP network

In addition to the shift to the star topology, by default, only a 12-fibre core sheath will be used to connect an NBN node in a NBN Copper Access environment. This may limit the company’s ability to swap out copper nodes for a passive fibre rollout in the future.

FTTN and FTTB won’t have an NTD, HFC will

The company’s updated network design rules also provides insights into the CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) for the new technologies being introduced into the network.

For customers on the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) or Fibre to the Basement (FTTB) networks, nbn™ will not provide the VDSL2 modem required to connect to the network:

A VDSL2 modem (provided by the Access Seeker or end user). This is on the customer side of the nbn™ network boundary and is not discussed further in this document.

However, NBN Co will provide an NTD for customers in the HFC footprint.

The HFC NTD terminates the incoming physical coax cable at the end-user premises and provides one User to Network Interface (UNI). The HFC NTD will have the following:

  • 1 x coax interface
  • 1 x UNI-Data interfaces

The HFC NTD has not yet been finalised and will be the subject of an RFP.

Unlike the NBN Fibre, NBN Fixed Wireless and NBN Satellite footprints, the HFC NTD is expected to only feature one data port and no voice ports.

NBN copper nodes to include 48, 192 and 384 variants

nbn™ has listed that DSLAMs with 48, 192 and 384 ports will be used in the FTTN and FTTB network, with “further DSLAM sizes, are currently under investigation”.

Table of NBN Copper DSLAM options
Table of NBN Copper DSLAM options

The company says they will prioritise interconnecting their network with the existing copper plant “directly into the pillar” where possible, or alternatively, inject the VDSL2 signals into existing or new downstream and upstream joints.

Each DSLAM will also be served by 4 point-to-point fibres, with at least 2 spares for migration and expansion purposes.  Each fibre is configured to aggregate 1GE of traffic back to the newly introduced Access Aggregation Switch located at the Fibre Access Node site, typically housed at an existing Telstra exchange.

nbn™ introduces an Access Aggregation Switch (AAS) to combine traffic from multiple nodes to the POI
nbn™ introduces an Access Aggregation Switch (AAS) to combine traffic from multiple nodes to the POI

NBN Co’s updated Network Design Document can be found here.

 

The end of an era: FTTP rollout comes to an end

Multi-Technology Mix replaces the full Fibre to the Premises rollout

It’s been known for some time that the Fibre to the Premises rollout will come to a head. As expected after the introduction of the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) rollout strategy as directed by the Government’s Statement of Expectations to nbn™, the FTTP rollout era is expected to end next month in June. According to the 18 month rollout plan released to service providers in March, there will be no more FSAMs (Fibre Serving Area Modules) expected to commence build beyond June 2015 encompassing a “pure” Fibre to the Premises rollout.

The past two months (March and April) saw a consecutive lows of 4 FSAMs entering into build preparation phase. The 19,900 lucky premises over the past two months are one of the final groups of communities to get the full FTTP rollout. Provided that nbn™ doesn’t remove them from the map again, these areas are expected to commence build within the next 2 months.

One final rollout region, somewhere in the Wollongong Fixed-Line Serving Area, is expected to be the final FSAM to enter into the build preparation phase this month and appear on the rollout map in June. From there on in, it is expected that nbn™ will transition to the MTM, dropping the word “Fibre” from “Fibre Serving Area Module”, releasing Service Area Modules (SAMs) that will encompass multiple technologies in a single module.

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NBN Co culls more areas from rollout map

Following a map update yesterday, NBN Co has removed approximately 58 thousand premises that were previously slated for a Fibre to the Premises rollout from its rollout map.

These premises, spread across 22 Serving Area Modules (SAMs) in NSW, VIC, QLD, SA and WA, were all in the Build Preparation phase where Telstra’s pit and pipe remediation works commences and detailed designs of the SAM being finalised with NBN Co’s construction partners.

The majority of these SAMs are covered by Telstra’s or Optus’ HFC networks, which NBN Co is expected to acquire, upgrade and integrate into the National Broadband Network as part of their so-called “Multi-Technology Mix” rollout strategy. It is expected that most of these areas will now be delayed until the HFC deals are finalised and rollout commences.

However, there are also some areas such as Dubbo (2DBB-06) that are not covered by the HFC networks but were still removed from the map.

Update 15/04/15: According to Daily Liberal, 2DBB-06 was delayed due to an “over ambitious” rollout sequencing by NBN Co.

A full list of SAMs removed, their coverage localities and the approximate number of premises covered by each SAM can be found below. Dave Cooper has also collated and compared the maps of the areas removed. He has tweeted GIFs of the before and after SAMs removed. They can be found below the opinion piece 🙂

SAM ID Localities Approx. # of Premises
2BLK-08 Doonside 2,700
2DBB-06 Dubbo 2,400
2CAM-03 Campsie 2,700
2CAM-04 Campsie, Belfield 2,800
2HOM-05 Strathfield South, Belfield 2,800
2HOM-06 Greenacre 2,600
2LIV-06 Warwick Farm 2,600
2LIV-09 Moorebank 2,600
3FSR-02 West Footscray, Footscray 2,400
3FSR-11 Footscray 2,400
3KEY-06 Keysborough 2,600
3WER-04 Wyndham Vale 2,400
4AAR-04 Sunnybank Hills, Runcorn 2,800
4AAR-05 Karawatha, Runcorn, Stretton, Calamvale 2,800
4APL-05 Carseldine, Bridgeman Downs 2,400
4BDB-04 New Chum, Redbank, Collingwood Park 1,900
4NDG-04 Nundah, Northgate 3,700
4NDG-05 Wavell Heights, Nundah 2,900
4NDG-06 Virginia, Wavell Heights, Northgate 2,900
5MOD-08 Redwood Park, Modbury Heights 2,300
6APP-05 Winthrop 2,600
6SPT-05 Como 2,700
Total 58,000

Opinion: the good, and the bad

(opinion) It’s not the first time that NBN Co has removed areas from the rollout map, and it won’t be the last. But it’s another significant reduction of premises covered by the Fibre network.

The good news is that NBN Co is deciding to make better use of tax payers money in achieving its expectations (as outlined in the Statement of Expectations, which only requires min. 25 mbps, remember!). Once DOCSIS 3.1 is rolled out, the HFC network upgrade will be vastly better than current HFC services and indeed — should be able to deliver speeds comparable to the current FTTP network.

The sad news is that you won’t get fibre (but it’s okay!) and you probably won’t get faster internet for some time yet… at least until the HFC deal is finalised and the upgrades are done.

It is disappointing to see NBN Co add these areas, knowing the HFC deal was ahead, then backtrack and remove these areas silently. No doubt, there will be many disappointed people around Australia that their beloved fibre connections will no longer come to them.

I believe that, as hard as it may be, NBN Co has a role in informing these communities that they were removed from the map for a reason and not to fear. To have them on as “build preparation has commenced”, then suddenly remove them because of a change in policy that was known months in advanced will only cause confusion and angst in the community.

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NBN Premises Switch options

NBN Co releases new Technology Choice Policy

NBN Co is set to give consumers more choice over the technology being rolled out. They have released their new Technology Choice Policy which will allow individuals or whole areas to switch from NBN Co’s designated technology under the Multi-Technology Mix model to an alternative technology type at a cost to the consumer.

This is a much anticipated component of the revised rollout policy after NBN Co’s switch to the Multi-Technology Mix — allowing consumers to purchase a “fibre-on-demand” product. However, there are no details or estimates on the expected cost of upgrade build.

As part of the application and network design process, NBN Co will charge individuals $600 (ex GST), and at least $1,000 (ex GST) for a quote to network switch over a large area. According to the NBN Co website, the final costs for each the different technology upgrade “can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars” for an individual premises switch and “can range from tens of thousands of dollars to several millions of dollars” for a switch of an entire service area.

While absent from the actual policy document, NBN Co’s Chief Customer Officer John Simon indicated to ZDNet’s Josh Taylor that the fee for the application will be refunded if the extension goes ahead.

NBN Premises Switch options
Pricing details show the application and design costs for the Technology Choice Policy

At launch, NBN Co will allow applications to switch an entire area from FTTB, FTTN, Fixed Wireless or Satellite to a full fibre network (FTTP). Starting April, individuals be able to make an application to switch from FTTB to FTTP; and following from that, the switch from FTTN to FTTP will be available in July 2015.

However, the possibility of a HFC to FTTP upgrade is still being considered and developed by NBN Co.

 

The new policy, released this week on Friday*, replaces the existing Network Extension Program which enabled individuals or communities who were slated for Fixed Wireless or Satellite to upgrade to Fibre to the Premises or Fixed Wireless (respectively).

Clarification: Policy was intended to be released on Friday by NBN Co, but was made available on its website on Thursday night. Because NBN Co did intend to release it on Friday, the date when this policy was “released” will still say “Friday” in this post

 

Inside an NBN node at Umina Beach

Phone-only consumers to pay more in FTTN and HFC

(analysis) NBN Co has confirmed that they will force phone-only customers within their Fibre to the Node and HFC footprints off the existing PSTN service delivered over the current copper network from Telstra exchanges. Like the current migration of customers in the Fibre to the Premises footprint, all customers in the FTTN and HFC footprint will also need to migrate to the NBN network within 18 months after an area is NBN Ready for Service.

However, unlike the FTTP technology where NBN Co will install a Network Termination Device (NTD) at end users’ homes, customers or retail services providers are expected to provide the termination modem to connect to the NBN network. This leaves phone-only customers in an uncertain situation because phone signals are not natively transmitted over the FTTN or HFC networks.

Extra cost to consumers

NBN Co currently charges a minimum of $24.00 per month for its Access Virtual Circuit (similar to line rental, it allows service providers to access the data and voice ports on a customers’ premises). In addition to that, there are overhead costs for service providers to operate, connect and rent phone numbers.

However, in the FTTN or HFC footprint, customers will have to likely purchase (or have subsidised by service providers) a VDSL or cable modem with Voice Over IP (VOIP) functionality to make calls. With VDSL modems with in-built VOIP costing around $200 today, phone-only users in the FTTN footprint will likely have higher up-front costs or ongoing repayment costs compared with their FTTP footprint counterparts who can simply plug their existing phones into the NBN Co provided NTD. This would be a similar situation in the HFC footprint.

This means that consumers who don’t wish to access the Internet, yet retain a fixed-line phone connection, could potentially face up to $200 more up-front — or $8.30 per month on a 24 month contract.

No Backup Battery

It also creates further uncertainty for priority assist customers, or customers with medical or security alarms. The typical modems made available to consumers will unlikely have an uninterrupted power supply (UPS, also known as backup battery) in the event of a power outage. While the street-side nodes used by NBN Co in the FTTN network will have backup batteries, the customer’s modem will be unable to connect in the event of a power outage without a backup battery as well.

Elderly customers or customers with security or medical alarms may need to purchase an additional UPS to ensure their connection remains during a power outage, bearing further costs onto customers who only want a phone service.

FTTx & HFC will drive up mobile-only use

With these additional cost barriers likely to hit consumers in the FTTB/N and HFC footprints, phone-only consumers may be encouraged to abandon the fixed-like service and take up a mobile phone only service instead. With the increasing bandwidth made available using LTE and 3G technologies, transmitting voice and making phone calls over the cellular network has become cheaper than ever.

This may be even more problematic for NBN Co’s business case which used to assume that roughly 7% of the population will have mobile-only services. With the existing 7% of customers representing at least $18 million per year in lost potential revenue, NBN Co may need to find alternative avenues to make additional revenue.