NBN Technology Explained
Everyone is talking about the quality (or lack thereof) of Australia’s broadband technologies. There are many options available to end users.
You may not entirely be sure what all the acronyms mean and the quality of the connection.
I’ll try to explain in simple terms what each of the technologies is and which one would be the best option for your home or business.
Fibre to the node (FTTN)
Fibre to the node (FTTN) offers a fast and cost-effective way to connect homes and businesses to a broadband connection
The techs run fibre optic cable to a node (or cabinet) at the end of a street or to a centralised point in your local area.
The broadband is then delivered from these nodes to your location via the existing copper cable. Using technology called “Vectoring” this method can theoretically deliver speeds from 40 Mbps to 100Mbps with 400 meters of the cabinet.
Because they utilise existing copper phone lines, it is generally less expensive and quicker to roll out. However, due to using the old copper wires you are limited to the download and upload speeds mentioned above.
I liken it to driving down the Eastern Freeway at a 100 km/h and then hitting Alexandra Parade and slowing to 60 km/h. The freeway is the fibre, and the standard road is the copper.
Upgrades to the FTTN are possible in the future. When ready, NBN can replace copper lines with optical fibre.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP)
Fibre to the premises is pretty much the fastest affordable Internet connection you can get to your home or business. FTTP works like this. An FTTP connection connects the fibre optic cables directly from your house or business location directly to the NBN. A dedicated multi-fibre ribbon cable connects to each house directly. These cables are capable of 1 Gigabit speeds. However, the top speed available on the NBN is 100 Mbps
The initial plan when the NBN was going to be rolled out was to have fibre to the premise for most people, but a change of government put an end to that. Much to the chagrin of many internet users.
I can cover that topic can in a later blog post.
So, unfortunately, FTTP isn’t available everywhere, but you can apply for an Individual Premises Switch. Be forewarned though; this upgrade is expensive. If you manage to convince a few more people in your local area to make the switch, the cost per user will decrease slightly.
Fibre to the basement (FTTB)
If you live in an apartment, your NBN connection will most likely be Fibre to the basement.
NBN will run a fibre optic line to the node in the building comms room. From there, the buildings existing technology will handle the connection from there.
Most new buildings have ethernet (CAT5 or CAT6) data cabling through the building, so the speeds you will get close to what you would get from a standard FTTP connection
Fibre to the driveway (FTTDP or FTTC or FTTD)
Fibre to the driveway, fibre to the distribution point or fibre to the curb sits somewhere between FTTP and FTTN in terms of speed and costs. Here’s the way it works.
Similar to FTTP, a fibre optic cable runs from the nearest fibre distribution down the street.
This cable connects then connects to the copper wiring that runs from a house into the street (the distribution point).
Then, the connection runs from the copper wiring into the premises.
While this sounds similar to FTTN, FTTD is generally faster and more reliable. Instead of the last kilometre, just the last few metres utilise existing copper wiring.
Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC)
Remember the days years ago when people had cable internet? This technology uses cables that used to deliver Foxtel to your house. You may be able to use this technology where the premise had an existing pay TV service connected.
You may get high download speeds from HFC during quiet times. Download rate can be reduced significantly during peak times. If you can upgrade to FTTP, consider doing so.
Fixed wireless technology is used to connect rural and regional areas to the NBN. An alternative to a satellite connection (see below), fixed wireless uses ground-based hubs that communicate to premises wirelessly.
Fixed wireless uses the same technology as the 4G networks from major telecommunications companies.
Satellite or Sky Muster
The long-distance connection of satellite NBN means that speed and latency are, compared to the technologies listed above, the worst of the group. That considered, areas previously accessing the internet via flaky mobile connectivity will notice a vast improvement.
Switching to a satellite connection is quite expensive and time-consuming. It requires a range of hardware upgrades at the user’s premises.