Expanded FTTN trial will shape NBN's future

An agreement between Telstra and NBN Co for a 1000-node deployment of fibre-to-the-node technology will "deliver valuable insights into how to build a sustainable and consistent program of work that allows the industry to ramp up and deploy the FTTN element of the NBN at scale," according to NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow.

The FTTN pilot in areas of regional Queensland and NSW comes on the hills of a smaller FTTN test deployment in Umina, NSW, and in the Melbourne suburb of Epping.

Under the agreement, which was announced today and is reportedly worth $150 million for Telstra, FTTN will be rolled out in Belmont, Boolaroo, Gorokan, Hamilton and Morisset in NSW; and in Bribie Island, Bundaberg, Caboolture, Gympie and Warner in Queensland.

NBN Co will also expand its current pilot rollout in Umina.

A statement issued by the office of the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the new contract with Telstra "will ensure initial rollout of FTTN focuses on areas categorised as ‘underserved’ in the Government’s MyBroadband broadband quality study".

NBN Co and Telstra are yet to complete renegotiation of the Definitive Agreements, which cover the progressive shutdown of Telstra's copper network and the migration of Telstra's customers to the NBN.

As part of a shift away from fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) to FTTN for the majority of the rollout, NBN Co will require access to Telstra's copper network for 'last mile' connections.

A statement today from NBN Co said negotiations are "ongoing and progressing well".

In May NBN Co executives similarly said that negotiations for a new deal with Telstra were "progressing" with "good will on both parts", but declined to offer any detail.

The negotiations are "well advanced" according to the government's statement today.

NBN Co's statement on the FTTN said that the wholesaler is working to develop an appropriate product set for RSPs.

Today's announcement "demonstrates how FTTN can help to bring broadband more quickly to many regional areas than would have occurred under Labor’s plan," Paul Fletcher, parliamentary secretary to communications minister, said in a statement.

Turnbull and finance minister Mathias Cormann in April issued NBN Co with a statement of expectations. That document backed 'Scenario 6' from the NBN Co strategic review, with the government indicating that NBN Co should move away from a majority FTTP rollout and proceed with rolling out a network based on a mix of technologies including FTTN.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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