To get the NBN or National Broadband Network internet service in 2017 means looking at different options. The developments and advancements made by the NBN Co. and retailer ISP’s have given us some changes and even “newer” formats. This has in turn given subscribers more options to take that may be more suitable for them regardless of the format preferred, and accordingly to the subscriber’s situation.
Some of these are upgraded, some are new (FTTC), while others are NBN basics since the beginning such as Fixed Line and Fixed Wireless NBN, but with improvements compared to their original forms from a few years ago. Each option / format has its own rules as well, and may apply only to certain conditions or situations, as well as suitability. Some may even be exclusive, such as how Fixed Wireless and Satellite NBN is to rural and regional areas, although they also serve as alternate formats when they are the only available format possible.
Multi Technology Mix NBN / HFC / Fibre to the X
Over the past couple of years we have seen a few changes to the Multi Technology Mix (MTM) NBN format, which is basically different versions of part copper and part fibre configurations of the fixed line NBN format. Some of these were known as HFC or Hybrid Fibre Coaxial cable where a previous cable TV configuration already existed and can be used. Others were MTM / Fibre to the Node /etc. version types, using the copper network facilities that are also already preexisting in the premises.
These were adapted and integrated into the NBN infrastructure since there are a huge number of these that existed in premises of many areas around major cities in Australia. They were a welcome addition to the overall NBN connection supply that addresses the increasing demand for NBN connections. They save considerable costs, time, and extensive effort, instead of installing new fibre components in the premises area.
One of the main concerns for this was the fact that it has copper elements. Before, it was considered more inferior, as the main connection from the source is fibre and it didn’t have its speed, performance, and long lasting resiliency. But with many new copper optimisation methods developed, Multi Technology Mix improved. Fibre to the Node / Basement / Building formats are the most common commercial versions available, with additional optimisation methods to maximise speed and performance.
This led to its evolution by fusing advanced, short distance twisted copper loop technology, with a type of signal noise reduction and optimisation technology in XG.Fast. The result was an improved version, FTTC of Fibre to the Curb, which was created to bring these hybrid multi mix technology connections to the level of pure fibre.
One minor concern with the format is that the copper elements won’t be as super resilient as the fibre part. Fibre optic cable is resilient against heat, water, interference, general wear, and corrosion. However, since the copper components are within the premises, most of them are shielded against the external elements, and won’t be affected that much. Still, it remains a main concern for those who get MTM NBN, or FTTC NBN, whichever the case may be.
Existing Multi Mix Technology NBN will stay the same, and would not be changed or upgraded, however, it has been improved as best as it possibly can be. FTTC operates on an entirely different methodology even if it has mostly the same key elements. It will also be exclusively for new connections, as NBN Co. started build and design plans to create new FTTC ready connections, starting with Sydney and Melbourne areas.
This format is most likely to be installed for an upgrading or new subscriber who already has HFC or copper network facilities preexisting in the premises (Cable TV / internet), and is first recommended as it would save much time, costs, and extra work needed if they prefer FTTP or Fibre to the Premises. However, a number of Australians would still prefer pure fibre. In this case, they can apply for FTTP (subject to feasibility checking and approval) or for new premises, something almost equal to it: FTTC.
Fibre to the Curb is seen as the next evolutionary step of Multi Technology Mix NBN. This is an advanced form of HFC and MTM NBN, using shorter twisted copper loop technology, and a type of signal noise reduction and optimisation technology in XG.Fast. This brings the connection to its optimal level, at par with pure fibre line connections, with initial trials hitting an 8Gbps downstream rate. XG.Fast also eliminates interference and improves overall quality, to provide performance like a pure fibre line does.
The short distance connection is also another new feature, which places the fibre component as close as possible to the premises. It is then bridged to the copper wiring in the premises via a DPU or Distribution Point Unit. This bridge brings another extra feature unique to FTTC: reverse powering. This means that it is powered at the premises level, and there’s no need for a separate power source connection.
FTTC is poised to become the next sub-format arising out of MTM NBN. The build, design and later deployment is expected to roll out by 2018, with new plans for standardised construction of FTTC homes initially limited for Sydney and Melbourne at the moment.
Fibre to the Premises is the original flagship version of the fixed line pure fibre NBN format, and still considered the ideal, and the go to connection as preference. It is an uncomplicated, pure fibre connection all the way through, which enables it to achieve the speed, performance, and quality of connection of NBN, as advertised. It is also more resilient to common external elements that can directly affect internet cables, such as heat, water, interference, general wear and corrosion. It is also the one that can most follow the four NBN speed tiers as close as possible, depending on which speed tier was set-up.
While all steps are made sure to be able to install pure fibre FTTP as a default, it is not suitable or possible for all subscribers. Complications with fibre line sourcing, geographical challenges, incomplete facilities, and issues within the connections in the premises present themselves. In this case, MTM NBN can be offered if there are preexisting copper network components in the premises.
In a worst case scenario, subscribers may be put on a waiting list with an alternate NBN connection (wireless) or temporary ADSL or ADSL2 used, until required components become available (usually when roll out is completed in the area). It will be upgraded to FTTP or optimised MTM NBN whichever is possible, at no extra costs.
We can consider Satellite NBN as one of the newer subformats in operation today. While it didn’t play a dominating role in the broadband / NBN markets, the launch of its second Sky Muster satellite last Oct 2016 made it into a bigger and more improved wireless network, with coverage area, quality, speed, and performance now doubled.
This format uses two Sky Muster Satellites in orbit above the Australian continent, receiving signals to and from ground NBN tower stations. They beam down to receiver satellite dishes to subscriber homes. These satellite dishes provide the connection and network to the premises, including wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices via routers. It functions differently from network Wi-Fi or 4G which delivers the service directly to the wireless device. The wireless component is sourced from the router connected to the receiving satellite dish.
Satellite NBN is almost exclusively used for distant, rural, regional, offshore, and outback locations when available. Either Satellite, or Fixed Wireless NBN. If available elsewhere, it can also be used as an alternate connection for those on waiting lists looking to get fixed line NBN, whether FTTP or MTM NBN. But in these aforementioned outsider regions, it is the default NBN connection. Due to advancements in wireless technology and two satellites now in service, Satellite NBN is able to provide two main speed tiers: 12 / 1Mbps and 25 / 5Mbps evenly within its coverage areas.
Fixed Wireless NBN
This is the other main format for distant, rural, regional, offshore, and outback locations where fixed line configurations won’t work, or are not available. Like Satellite NBN, it is also an alternate format when fixed line NBN connections cannot be installed or are not yet available. It is known generally more for the former than the latter. But there are slight and not so slight differences.
Unlike Satellite NBN though, Fixed Wireless NBN works in a more direct way: it receives radio signals direct from the NBN transmission tower (connected to the NBN fibre lines) to an antenna receiver at the premises. The NBN connection box facilitates the rest of the connection to the computers and devices inside the premises.
In a report done by the Ovum research company in 2015, NBN’s Fixed Wireless speed and performance was found to be the leading service of its type around the globe. This is through NBN’s efforts and the many available transmission towers available for the distant regions, as well as the continuing roll out to expand further to more of these areas.
While this format is slightly in the upper registers in terms of speed and performance (25 / 5Mbps and 50 / 20Mbps) there is one limitation though: Locations must be in the 14km radius of the coverage area from the transmission tower to the receiving rooftop antenna receiver. However, the existing transmission towers are enough to be able to provide the service to all coverage areas. These coverage areas are not as populous and congested as the major cities.