FTTC: What is NBN Fibre to the Curb?

Get high speed Internet with an FTTC NBN connection.

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NBN FTTC connections involve fibre being run into a "telecom pit" outside your property, with the rest of the distance covered by copper wires. Here are some quick facts about FTTC:

  • Faster, more reliable speeds than Fibre to the Node (FTTN) connections
  • Upgrading to an FTTP connection from FTTC is possible, and cheaper than doing so from other connection types

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You'll only be able to buy an FTTC plan if that's the type of connection your property has. Pop your address into the field below and we'll show you plans that match your connection type.

What exactly is FTTC NBN?

FTTC is one of the several connection technologies the NBN is using to hook properties up to the Internet. High-speed fibre cables are run to the curb outside your property, and then connected to your house by copper wires to complete the signal network.

FTTC connections should be available to around 6% of Australia's population (based on NBN Co's estimate of 1.5 million FTTC connections around the country). While FTTC isn't the most readily available NBN connection type, the good news is that the speeds you can expect from an FTTC connection should be quite close to the typical evening speeds advertised by your NBN provider.

How does NBN FTTC work?

The NBN is a huge system of interconnected high-speed fibre optic cables that run through parts of the country. There are major hubs all around Australia that direct traffic through more fibre optic cables to various smaller nodes.

In an FTTC connection, fibre optic cable runs from this smaller node to a distribution point unit (DPU) outside your house. From there, the connection is usually completed by less than 300 metres of copper wire from that point to your house. With so little copper involved, FTTC promises very high-speed Internet compared to some other technologies that require more copper wire, which can disrupt your network speeds. NBN distribution point unit (DPU) on sidewalk located in Wollstonecraft, NSW

What do the NBN FTTC DPUs look like?

Wondering where the distribution point units live on your curb? You might have noticed those covered pits, as shown in our photo, with the name of providers like Optus, Telstra or TPG. These are "telecom pits", and contain the distribution points where the fibre optic cables switch over to existing copper wires.

FTTC speeds: How fast is FTTC?

As with all connections, the connection speed you actually achieve depends on a wide variety of factors, including your hardware, devices and how many people are online at the same time. That said, FTTC ranks fairly well, just behind Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) in terms of speed.

The table below shows the theoretical maximum download speeds for each NBN connection type. You can see that FTTP has the potential for the fastest speeds, with FTTC, FTTB, FTTN & HFC all following behind. It should be noted that FTTN connection speeds are the most variable as it heavily depends on how closely situated you are to the 'node'.

Connection typePopulation coveredMaximum theoretical download speedsMaximum theoretical upload speeds
Fibre to the Premises
~25%1 Gbps 400 Mbps
Fibre to the Node
~29%100 Mbps40 Mbps
(up to 40 Mbps)
Fibre to the Building
~11%100 Mbps40 Mbps
Fibre to the Curb
~6%100 Mbps 40 Mbps
Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial
~27%100 Mbps 40 Mbps
Fixed Wireless~5%50 Mbps20 Mbps
Satellite~3%25 Mbps5 Mbps

With current NBN FTTC connections, you should be able to comfortably sign up to a Fast NBN plan, the highest speed tier currently available with maximum download speeds of up to 100Mbps. This is because FTTC only uses a very short length of copper wire (generally less than 300 metres), not enough to significantly degrade the signal.

NBN Co has also stated in its Corporate Plan for 2020-23 that FTTC connections will be easy to upgrade in the future due to this small amount of copper, offering speeds up to 1Gbps (100 times faster than NBN100) after upgrades are performed.

What do I need to check before getting FTTC?

The main things you should check before switching over to any NBN connection, including FTTC, are:

Alarm icon

Existing alarms

Home icon

Phone or ADSL services

Plug icon

Power sockets

Do I need a modem for FTTC?

Modem An FTTC connection won't need equipment that's any different to other NBN types, and all the external infrastructure will be installed by NBN Co. In terms of an NBN FTTC connection device, all you require inside the house is a modem, which NBN Co will provide for free. The NBN FTTC modem should look something like the image we've shown, with a clear logo showing it's from NBN Co.

You'll also need a router if you're hoping to connect other devices in your home to the Internet. Routers can be purchased separately or from the majority of Internet providers when you get a plan from them. The blue Ethernet cable that comes inside your router's box is used to connect your router to the modem.

FTTC vs FTTN: Is FTTC better than FTTN?

The major difference between FTTC and FTTN connections is how much copper wire is used, and how many people are serviced. FTTN connections are much more common, making up over 40% of all NBN services compared to FTTC's 6%.

With FTTC, there is usually less than 300 metres of copper between the distribution point and any of the properties involved. This also means only a few properties will be connected to a given distribution point, making that part of the network less congested. This is also why you can expect to receive faster FTTC speeds, even though the theoretical maximum of both connection types is the same (100Mbps).

With FTTN, the node itself can be around a kilometre away from properties, and is rarely closer than 400 metres, meaning far more copper wire is used, resulting in far greater signal degradation. On top of this, dozens of properties could be hooked up to the same node, leading to greater congestion at that end of the network.

Can I upgrade FTTC to FTTP?

Generally, the technology used in the NBN connection to your property is not chosen by you. Rather, NBN Co sets up your property with whatever connection it has for free, and you use that.

However, the NBN Co "Technology Choice Program" lets you put in an application to upgrade your existing connection to a better technology, which means you can upgrade FTTC to FTTP.

This is a pretty expensive endeavour mostly because a pit has to be dug between the distribution point and your property to lay down more fibre optic cable. Upgrading your connection will usually cost a few thousand dollars for a house, or over $10,000 for a complex. NBN Co will also charge a $660 Build Quote Fee if your application is accepted.

FTTC vs FTTP: Is FTTP better than FTTC?

Mostly, yes. While FTTC connections are theoretically capable of the same maximum speeds as FTTP, that will depend on how far signals have to travel from the curb to your house through copper wires. With FTTP, your signals won't have to travel through any copper wiring, making them more reliable speed-wise than FTTC connections.

HFC vs FTTC: Which is better?

At this stage in the NBN's life, both HFC and FTTC are fairly comparable in terms of speed and reliability. FTTC suffers from the fact that signals have to run through copper wires to reach your house, while HFC connections struggle with network congestion and the length of cable. HFC cable is slightly better for carrying signals than copper, but may have further to travel.

Moving forward, FTTC may prove better because it's far easier to upgrade to an FTTP connection - all that needs to be done is replacing that last length of copper with proper fibre cable. HFC, on the other hand, cannot be upgraded to FTTP without much, much greater expense.

NBN FTTC frequently asked questions

Is FTTC the fastest NBN connection type?

No, though it's up there. FTTP connections are generally capable of offering the fastest speeds for residents, due to not incorporating any copper cables. FTTC has extremely short lengths of copper wire compared to other NBN technologies, meaning it's not too far behind in terms of speed.

Is FTTC any good?

FTTC is a great option given what's available in Australia as it incorporates very little old copper wire as part of it. This means it should be able to deliver some of the higher speeds that the NBN is capable of supporting.

That said, you don't really get to choose what technology is used for your NBN connection, unless you're willing to fork out a fair chunk of cash in the NBN Technology Choice Program. Short of moving into a property that specifically has FTTC, you're more or less stuck with whatever the NBN Co decides to hook you up with.

Image: NBN Co. Icons made by Smashicons & Freepik from www.flaticon.com

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