Most Australians with fibre-to-the-node won't get top internet speeds, NBN reportedly concedes

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A NBN Co worker arranges fibre-optic cables used in the National Broadband Network in west Sydney July 11, 2013. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

A number of copper wires part of the NBN rollout will need to be replaced within ten years, a former executive at the National Broadband Network has predicted. There are fears that several Aussies with fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) would not get top internet speeds.

The NBN is being built with a combination of technologies. The high-speed fibre runs to a point in a neighbourhood, and copper wires are then used to access Australian households and businesses.

But just a quarter of FTTN connections can attain top speed as advertised. This is according to latest figures provided to a Senate committee. That is comparable to 100 percent of customers that utilise fibre to the premises (FTTP) or pay television HFC cables.

Communications Alliance former chief executive Anne Hurley, who worked as head of stakeholder engagement at NBN, said that the new figures emphasised flaws in the network's design. "It confirms what we've been saying from day one: fibre-to-the-node is an obsolete technology, it will never deliver the speeds expected by consumers," the ABC reports her as saying.

Swathes of the copper network may need to be replaced within five to 10 years, Hurley warned. She pointed out that other countries do not embrace fibre-to-the-node and copper so it is all going to go and be replaced. According to Hurley, the industry has to offer a strategy to the government and work on how the network will be rolled out.

According to the NBN, the network will deliver improved speeds to most Aussies. A spokesperson said that fibre-to-the-node can provide average wholesale download speeds of around 70Mbps. This is about 10 times faster than average ADSL speeds in the country.

The NBN spokesperson added that the current plan is to complete the network by 2020, with all premises accessing at least 25Mbps and 90 percent of fixed-broadband footprint accessing 50Mbps.

The government has ploughed $30 billion into the NBN. It intends to eventually privatise the network to recoup the investment along with a return.

A Macquarie Wealth Management stated that it expects the “NBN pricing structure to continue to evolve, and the merits of writing down the NBN to continue to be debated.” Price cuts were announced in December. NBN pushes ahead with the rollout.