What is FTTdp for Australia’s NBN?

The Australian NBN is a massive continuous discussion on the internet, especially in the online tech communities, about when they get it and what speeds they want out of it.

We have heard of both the Labour Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) solution and the Liberal Fibre To The Node (FTTN) solution, but what is FTTdp?

Let me start by explaining the current options available:

Fibre To The Premises (Labour):

The Australian Federal Labour Party had the original solution that was being rolled out, which is fibre optic cables been distributed to each individual home.

As you would imagine this would take an incredibly long time if you were to provide fibre directly to each individual home and office building etc.

The average installation cost would be $4400 per premise (e.g. home or office building).

The advantage that the Labour solution is that it would provide (when completely rolled-out) 1000Mbps (or 1Gbps) internet connection. The higher the number, the faster your internet, the more you can do in your home.

This number relates to the amount of bandwidth that you get in your home. Bandwidth is how fast your internet speeds are to do the tasks that you want to do.

The advantages of faster speeds are that you can either a) download larger files faster or b) download and upload more content at the same time.

Fibre To The Node (Liberal):

When the Australian Federal Liberal Party came into power in 2013, we got a transition to the Fibre To The Node (FTTN) model.

This meant that the fibre optic cable would go to the end of your street and the existing copper network would carry the internet connection, over the remaining 400 metres (at most) between the node at the end of your street and up to 384 houses including your own.

The average installation cost per premise for FTTN is $2300 or roughly 47% cheaper to implement than Labour’s solution.

Liberal’s solution does provide better speeds than the existing copper network, but is only at best 100Mbps which is 10x slower than Labour’s solution (in maximum theoretical speeds).

Fibre To The Distribution Point (New):

Fibre To The Distribution Point (FTTdp) is suppose to be the middle solution between what the federal Liberal and Labour parties want to implement.

In regards to distance from your house to the fibre optic cable you are connecting to the NBN with this much copper:

  • Labour (FTTP) = 0m.
  • Liberal (FTTN) = Up to 400m.
  • New (FTTdp) = 10-30m (as a rough estimate).

As a comparison for maximum speeds:

  • Labour (FTTP) =  1000Mbps.
  • Liberal (FTTN) = 100Mbps.
  • New (FTTdp) = 500-800Mbps (as a rough estimate) .

FTTdp brings fibre almost to users’ doorsteps. This is to the telecommunications pit that is almost directly outside your property or your neighbours.

Telstra_pit.jpg
Telstra Telecommunications Pit

The cable that goes between this pit and the internet modem in your home is copper, but because it is a relatively short distance compared to the end of your street, it can handle much faster internet speeds, just not over long distances like internet is currently prior to NBN.

The whole purpose of the NBN is to provide faster internet speeds over longer distances, such as between suburbs.

So why is FTTdp a big deal?

First of all, there are two major factors to using copper at least in some way in conjunction with Fibre for the NBN.

  1. Existing copper infrastructure that can be re-used and transfer faster speeds over short distances, but not over long distances like it is today.
  2. Existing copper infrastructure is rotting and starting to fail in many areas.

FTTdp is a big deal because it provides the following benefits:

  • Significantly better speeds than Liberal’s original solution.
  • Just as fast as a rollout as Liberal’s solution.
  • Uses “skinny fibre” cables that around 1/3 the diameter of currently used fibre optic cables which will make it easier to install nationwide.

So you’re probably saying by now, well this is the golden ticket solution to getting our internet better. Why haven’t we done it already?

Well… the FTTdp is currently undergoing a trial rollout with the skinny fibre in 30 premises at two locations in Sydney and Melbourne over a three-month trial.

This means it is currently in what tech people would call, the beta stage. That is a real-world test before a massive distribution is in place.

It is also to be noted that not all Fibre To The Node rollouts will be replaced with FTTdp but I sure hope the majority of them do, especially for inner suburbs.

It is currently planning on rolling out FTTdp from the end of 2017. This is bad news for where I live as we are expected to get FTTN in the 2nd half of 2016 which means we might get the weak NBN solution.

It is true that copper is starting to fail in some areas and where the copper network needs to be replaced in order for the internet to at least work, then they should definitely replace it with fibre optic.

Isn’t the future all wireless?

It probably is, but as it currently stands, it does not seem like a realistic issue for the foreseeable future.

If you have not already read my blog post from the other day, click here to check out my recent post on Telstra’s 2nd Free Data Day, but that is crucial real-world test to prove why we need a physically cabled network like the NBN.

To summarise it, in a single day Telstra users download 2,686 terabytes of data over a 25 hour period (daylight savings ended in some states that Sunday) and an outrageous number of people complained on social media that they were getting ridiculously slow speeds.

In the afternoon on that Sunday, I was getting roughly 1-3Mbps in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs on my iPhone 5s over the 4G LTE network, where-as on a normal day I would get 15-30Mbps (depending on time of day).

The problem is that wireless at least as it is today, is not designed for large amounts of users to use at the same time. Telstra has previously said that on an average Sunday that they use about half of what was downloaded on the first free data day (which is half of 1,841 terabytes of data) being around 920 terabytes of data. So when you have a free data day, the 2nd one had a usage that was 292% more than your average Sunday so it is not surprising that it had issues.

This is likely why phone providers provide anywhere up to 12 or 15GB of data on their most expensive phone plans.

It’s also worth considering whether or not 5G, 6G or 7G Cellular Data connections would be a better network to cope with large congestion issues. And in short, yes it would probably handle it a lot better but it would still not be the same as a physical cable network when it comes to speed, stability, cost etc.

Conclusion:

FTTdp is definitely the superior solution to all the NBN issues when it comes to installation, value for money and internet speeds.

What I am annoyed with, is that the proper rollout for FTTdp is not until late 2017, of which you would think the majority of homes would be connected to the NBN nationwide by then.

And this leads me to the question for this post:

“Which of the 3 NBN solutions do you support and why?”

In my case, I would love to have FTTP to every home obviously, but I honestly see it take way… way longer than any federal party thinks it would take to have done, and with the enormous federal government deficit, it would make it more expensive to implement (but that’s another discussion for another day).

In short, I support the FTTdp solution, but I really do wish it would hurry up and become the new permanent solution for the rest of the rollout, that is if both parties can agree to implementing and not changing until completed, of which Labour is now wanting to support since the speeds are closer to what Labour initially wanted with FTTP (from what I can tell).

So that it for this post, thank you for reading it. If you learnt something new be sure to give this post a like, follow me for posts like this in the future and leave a comment down below on your thoughts about the NBN.

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