NBN gives up on Optus cable, also gives up on spelling

Angus Kidman 29 September 2016

NBNInstall_Shutterstock

It's becoming less and less likely that your pay TV connection will be part of your broadband future.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is truly cutting the cable. Barely a month after announcing that a million or more households wouldn't be getting their broadband through hybrid-fibre coaxial (aka pay TV cabling), we now learn that the cable network purchased from Optus back in 2011 for $800 million is largely going to be cast aside:

First, my spelling gripe. In its press release announcing the change, nbn (the annoyingly lower-case name for the company building the NBN) said this:

nbn today confirmed its newest access technology, Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp), also known as Fibre-to-the-curb, would be deployed to a potential footprint of up to 700,000 premises across the country.

In Australian English, the word for the edge of the road is kerb, not curb. That's not the case in US English, but the NBN is not being rolled out in Utah. This might seem like a small point, but when you're investing $30 billion of public money, I'd expect a dictionary to have been purchased somewhere along the way. In any event, I'll stick with calling it FTTDP (the random lower-case letters aren't needed either).

FTTDP is going to be used in some cases where fibre-to-the-node or FTTN (a fibre connection to a cabinet in your neighbourhood, linked by a copper connection to your home) was being considered previously. But more tellingly, it is also going to be used instead of HFC connections "in areas served solely by the Optus HFC network". Put more bluntly: the Optus network was a bad investment.

We've known for a while that much of the Optus HFC network is in a poor state of repair, meaning that it would be more expensive to fix it than to build something else. This development confirms that. While the Optus network has been used in some areas (indeed, the original HFC trial in Queensland was on Optus cable), it's clearly not up to the task in much of the country.

As I've pointed out before, the only way you'll have any say in the kind of NBN connection you get is by moving house. But if you're living somewhere which does have an Optus cable connection, it's now safe to assume that it won't be used for the NBN when it finally arrives in your neighbourhood, at some point between now and 2020.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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