FTTN NBN plans will use a mix of fibre and copper connections to deliver broadband to your home or office. Here’s everything you should consider before choosing a plan.
How does FTTN NBN work?
Unlike FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) NBN which uses a full fibre connection direct into your home or business, FTTN (Fibre To The Node) uses a mixed transport mechanism to deliver broadband to you. As the name suggests, the optical fibre portion of an FTTN connection only extends to a node located near a group of properties. From there, the copper lines already in place for telephony and ADSL broadband will be used to deliver the final connection for your broadband.
The advantage to this approach is that because the copper is already in place, the level of engineering works is reduced giving a theoretical faster build time. That has to be placed against the highly variable quality of the copper in some situations, as well as the different power consumption of an FTTN connection compared to a pure Fibre connection.
What’s key here is that you won’t have a functional choice at first between FTTN and FTTP; the technology that’s provided to your address is decided by the planning that nbn co has already undertaken. There has been some talk of customers being able to pay for the "last mile" copper in an FTTN connection to be switched to full fibre, but early suggestions around this look like being an extremely expensive proposition. To determine which technology your house or business will have access to, have a look at our NBN rollout map.
How fast is FTTN NBN?
FTTN NBN is still in its infancy in terms of rollout, and nbn co is experimenting with different approaches to how it delivers FTTN in different circumstances, which will have an effect on the overall speed profile of FTTN NBN services. Because it’s a shared node and the length of copper used will also have an effect on overall speed quality, NBN FTTN plans are sold, rather like ADSL, with an "up to" qualifier, meaning that you may get the advertised speed on a plan, but you’re more likely to get something lower depending on your precise situation. In some circumstances if nbn co determines that a given speed tier is unlikely to be realised at a premises, they may not supply it to your ISP for you to utilise.
In trial situations with node cabinets 400m from premises, nbn co has managed 100Mbps downstream connections, but it’s not clear once there are larger quantities of users on a node whether those speeds would be realistically maintainable.
Where is FTTN NBN available?
As part of the switch to the "Multi Technology Mix" (MTM) NBN plan, FTTN connections were set to be provided to around 38 percent of Australian dwellings as part of the broader FTTN/FTTP/HFC Cable rollout.
How can I compare FTTN NBN plans?
As with any broadband plan, the speeds on offer on FTTN are a key comparison point. Again, it’s worth stressing that these are sold as best case scenario plans, so your experience of an FTTN plan is likely to be a little slower than the stated speed of a given plan. As with any fixed broadband product, you can expect to pay more for a faster connection.
The cost of an FTTN plan relates, as most broadband plans do to a few key criteria. You’ll pay more for a faster connection, and for one with higher download quotas or unlimited usage. If your needs are only modest then a slower, cheaper plan may be a better bet, but it’s worth checking if your provider will allow you to step up to a higher tier plan if you find your existing speed or quota inadequate while still under contract.
Will I need a new modem for FTTN NBN?
You’ll almost certainly need a new modem for an FTTN connection if you’re already using an ADSL2+ modem device. Most existing FTTN plans include a bundled modem as part of a contract, however.
What other extras should I look for?
As with other broadband plans, it’s worth checking for other bundled extras, such as phone calling services – bear in mind that while the copper forms part of the FTTN solution it will inevitably supplant the existing copper phone lines if that’s important to you – as well as any quota-free areas if you’re on a limited plan.