It makes more sense to roll out fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) for the National Broadband Network (NBN) than the government's current fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) approach, according to the CEO of internet service provider AAPT.
David Yuile told Computerworld Australia that while consumers may prefer FTTP, rolling out FTTN is more economical.
“Our view has always been that you build networks progressively from the centre out as and when the economics make sense,” Yuile said.
“Normally what you do is you build closer and closer to your customers with fibre, and fibre-to-the-node is normally the first step.”
The NBN is utilising FTTP technology, which rolls out fibre for the entire network to the doorstep of premises, while FTTN rolls out fibre to nodes or cabinets on the street and copper is used for the last mile from nodes to the doorstep of premises.
Yuile said FTTP is justified in greenfield estates, as the economics are better than building FTTP in brownfield sites, but by using FTTN as a starting point, further fibre links could be rolled out in the future.
However, Yuile, who was appointed CEO in June 2011 and is a former network and technology manager at Telecom New Zealand, said ultimately it is the government’s decision on how the network is rolled out and has had conversations with both the Federal Government and the opposition to “understand what their views are”.
The federal opposition's, shadow minister for communications and broadband, Malcolm Turnbull, maintains that a FTTN network would be cheaper and quicker to roll out. However, Turnbull is yet to reveal exactly how much the Coalition’s NBN would cost and how long it would take.
James Spenceley, CEO at Vocus Communications, has also stated that FTTN technology should make up part of the NBN. The correct technology for the NBN is dependent on location, he has said, with FTTP suitable in densely populated areas, whereas FTTN would work better in other locations.
However, FTTP has strong support. Graeme Samuel, former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Competition (ACCC), recently said FTTN uses obsolete technology and equipment, stating that Coalition claims about the cost of a FTTN NBN are incorrect because compensation would still need to be paid to Telstra for buying its copper network.
Yuile said that while he understands why there is some support among the Australian public for FTTP, the financial return of the network versus the cost to roll it out needs to be factored into the equation.
“I think it’s just a matter of matching the cost to the returns and it’s more progressive by going to the node and then to the home, versus going straight to the home. So it’s timing your capital investment versus the certainty that you’re going to get your payback,” he said.
Yuile also said websites like Whirlpool, a popular Australian broadband forum, are not indicative of the opinion of the wider public.
“It’s almost like a specialist forum, Whirlpool, so I think it’s a long stretch to say it’s representative of the general population. I think the general population has a keen interest in broadband, especially where people don’t have it, but the subtleties around the technologies, I would imagine, are lost on most people,” he said.
“I don’t think they generally know or care. They’re probably more interested in, many cases, does it work and how much disruption does it give me and how much are they paying for it.”
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