Get prepped for the NBN

It’s fair to say that the rollout of the NBN is a mess.

The switch from Labor’s fibre to the home plan to the Coalition’s multi-technology mix (MTM) network has seen cost blowouts and delays — the “faster and cheaper” sell is proving to be nonsense — but the MTM is finally at least starting to take shape.

Where once Labor promised 93% of the population would be covered by gigabit-capable fibre by 2019 (with the rest served by fixed wireless and satellite), the current MTM rollout promises that fixed line owners will get at least 50Mbps by 2020.

That 50Mbps will be delivered by fibre to the home (20% of homes), fibre to the node/building (38%) and HFC cable (34%). The rest will be served by fixed wireless (5%) and satellite (3%).

Currently, about 1.2 million premises are capable of getting NBN services and about half of those have actually signed up. Many of those are fibre to the home, the tail end of Labor’s original plan. Most new connections will be FTTN and HFC.

And if you’re looking to prepare your home for the NBN, you’ll need to know which you’ll be getting.

So what are you getting?

Thankfully, we at least now have a rollout plan, broken down by area.

The first thing you should do is look it up to see what version of the MTM you’re getting and when.

Head to nbnco.com.au and click on the ‘Learn about the NBN’ link to first search for your premises to see if it’s covered. If it’s not, find the three-year construction plan. Locate your area and see what type of service you’ll be getting and when.

The options are

FTTP — Fibre to the premises

Congrats! You’ve won the NBN lottery — you’re getting a new fibre connection all the way to your home.

FTTN — Fibre to the node/building

This is essentially an upgraded version of ADSL. It uses VDSL, as well as street-side or basement cabinets (nodes) to reduce the travel distance of the copper lines.

HFC

NBN Co is in negotiations to purchase the cable networks of Optus and Foxtel and will plug them into the NBN so that you can purchase the service from any ISP.

Fixed wireless

A tower will be installed in the area and you’ll have to point an outdoor antenna at it from your home. It’s essentially town-scale Wi-Fi.

What you’ll need

If you’re buying a router now and want to be able to use it with the NBN, you’ll need to make sure it supports the new tech.

FTTP

An FTTP installation involves the placement of a box on the outside of your home, as well as a connection box and power unit inside your home.

That connection box has gigabit Ethernet port (called UNI-D), and you use a standard Ethernet cable to connect it to the WAN port on your router. So what you need for FTTP is a router with a gigabit Ethernet WAN port.

Many ADSL/VDSL routers have additional Ethernet WAN ports, so if it looks like you can get FTTP in the future but only have ADSL now, it’s best to look for a router with both types of ports.

FTTN/B

From a user perspective, an FTTN connection looks exactly like an ADSL connection. You attach a splitter/filter to your phone landline and run it into the back of a modem router.

The difference is that it uses VDSL2 instead of ADSL2+, so you need a modem router that supports it.

Thankfully, many new routers support both VDSL2 and ADSL2 on the same port, so if you have such a router, you can continue to use it for FTTN without any changes. If you’re buying a new ADSL router now, make sure it supports VDSL.

HFC

If you’re a current subscriber to a cable Internet service, you should be able to continue to use your modem router for the immediate future.

There is a planned upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 in 2017 which will necessitate a new router, but there’s nothing you can do about that now.

If you don’t currently have cable Internet but are in an area listed for HFC, then there’s no point in jumping the gun. You’ll just have to buy a new cable modem router when the time comes.

Fixed wireless

Working a lot like FTTP, the fixed wireless equipment feeds an Ethernet cable to your router.

You just need a standard broadband router with a (preferably Gigabit) Ethernet port.