Data speeds could be upgraded under NBN scheme, review finds

The fixed-line portion of the Coalition's version of the national broadband network could be upgraded to super-fast gigabit broadband speeds by 2030, according to the NBN strategic review tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

The fixed-line portion of the Coalition's version of the national broadband network could be upgraded to super-fast gigabit broadband speeds by 2030, according to the NBN strategic review tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

Although the Coalition has not announced its plans for an upgrade, the strategic review has suggested that the fixed-line portion of the Coalition's NBN could achieve 250 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2025 and one gigabit per second by 2030.

The former Labor government committed to rolling out fibre-to-the-premises technology to 93 per cent of the Australian population, with eventual download speeds of up to 1000Mbps. The first of the 1Gbps products will be available to wholesalers this month.

The review doesn't say how much it will cost the government to upgrade to such speeds, but says making them available at a later date will save billions of dollars. About $5 billion would be saved if the government decided to roll out 250Mbps in 2025 and $4 billion would be saved if gigabit speeds were made available in 2030, rather than rolling out fibre-to-the-premises technology now.

To reach 250 Mbps, the review recommends using a technology still in the early stages of development called G.fast, which vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent say has a lot of potential but others have said is not a silver bullet.

The review recommends using G.fast on the fibre-to-the-node portion of the network and the DOCSIS 3.1 standard to upgrade existing hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks to faster speeds. G.fast, which is likely to be available in a number of years, allows for download speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps at distances of about 70 metres. It works by reducing line noise on copper used in a fibre-to-the-node rollout for the last 1.6 kilometres to the home. To reach 1Gbps in 2030, the review recommends upgrading to fibre-to-the-premises.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the strategic review found that the Coalition's plan would save $32 billion compared to Labor's scheme.

But opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare said that maintaining Telstra's copper network would cost between $600 million and $900 million over 10 years.

"Wouldn't it be better investing that money in building the fibre network than in maintaining the copper network?" Mr Clare said. "Because the NBN is so important, it's important that it's done right. That means done using fibre and not copper, which we will have to come back and replace."

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