HFC: the next NBN debacle.

The problem with the NBN  multi technology mix  (MtM) policy is that they are using old technologies and if you are going to upgrade this you will come across lots of nasty surprises, as already has become clear in relation to the FttN part of the project. Some parts of the cable infrastructure is even more than 50 years old, in relation to the HFC network, this dates back to the 1990s, so also old infrastructure.

As a result we see ongoing increases in costs (already from $25 bn to $50bn) and delays (already from 2016 to 2020). No doubt that more problems will arrive with further costs and further delays. A ‘clever’ way of avoiding this issue is that nbn is simply putting problem areas on the backburn, this list  already has more than 200,000 premises on it.

It is very frustrating as all of these problems can directly be related back to the pollical issue where parties try to upstage each other in the interest of their political parties rather than making decisions in the national interest.

Now the HFC issue in more detail.

In my discussions first with Conroy and later with Turnbull I suggested that – as part of saving FttH – they should leave HFC alone. Most HFC subscribers have a good quality service (better than FttN) and the government could look at upgrading HFC to FttH later (eg after 2020/2025). This would have allowed the government to spread its investments over a longer period and this would allow us  to also profit from further technology developments (eg by that time FttH would be cheaper than HFC).

Furthermore, the question was always if the Optus HFC network could be upgraded at all as the quality was rather poor. While several parts of the Telstra HFC network were upgraded also here many parts date from the 1990s and require significant investments for upgrading. This is what the nbn company  is now belatedly realising. With these extra costs the question again is why not have a plan that will see a full FttH upgrade.

Based on my recent trip to Europe, I am just writing an analysis on the arrival of wholesale only networks around the globe (similar to nbn) while none of them are working on the same scale as nbn  at the same time none of them are using MtM, they all are building FttH networks.

Paul Budde


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