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UK beating Australian NBN on fibre coverage
Tuesday 29 January 2013 13:21:44 by Andrew Ferguson

The Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) is a bold plan, but at this point in time it is behind the UK, though with year on year investment it is very possible it will surpass the UK as it moves towards a 93% fibre coverage target by 2021.

In raw numbers the UK has some 199,000 properties where FTTH (fibre to the home) is available, where as Australia as of December 2012 had just 72,400. One big difference is the area of take-up, in the UK this is running at around 8.5% but in Australia the fibre option is proving more popular with a 14.3% take-up.

Key NBN Metrics
  June 2011 June 2012 Dec 2012 Projected June 2013
Premises Passed
Brownfield 18,000 29,000 46,100 286,000
Greenfield - 10,000 26,300 55,000
Fixed Wireless - 9,000 17,300 320,000
Satellite 165,000 165,000 250,000
Total 183,000 213,000 339,700 661,000
Premises Activated
Brownfield 600 3,400 6,600 44,000
Greenfield - 500 3,800 10,000
Fixed Wireless - 100 1,000 37,700
Satellite 200 9,600 23,100
Total 800 13,600 34,500 91,700

Australia has around 12.2 million premises for which 93% fibre coverage seems a tall order, but the project is likely to ramp up deployment considerably. The NBN project shows what is possible if you take the bull by the horns and commit to long term investment. The size of the investment is such that in the 12 months up to June 2012 the project had a loss of AUS $520m and an income of just $2 million from subscriptions.

The project is not without controversy with political pressures to downgrade from a FTTH deployment to using a lot more FTTC due to being quicker to deploy and cheaper. The project is already heavily reliant on satellite and fixed wireless services to cover the final 7% of premises and while satellite services are seen as a cheap option, the cost of a new satellite is still significant with 2012 seeing a $620m contract signed for a new satellite to be delivered in 2015. The current satellite services are a 6 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, hence the need for further upgrades.

No matter who had won the UK General Election in 2010, the UK was destined to follow a similar path for both the major parties, we have significant doubts that a Universal Service Commitment to provide 2 Mbps to all by 2012 would have been delivered without heavy reliance on satellite services. There is a small chance that rather than a head long rush to a grand but largely symbolic target will be avoided in the post 2015 landscape when the best plan would see a steady period of investment in full fibre infrastructure, but very little sign of these from the politicians yet. HS2 with its phase 2 announcement to 2033 is the sort of long term vision that the UK needs for broadband infrastructure, though over a shorter five to seven year period the slowest 10% of the UK will see its broadband speeds brought up to the Gigabit level that is already available in parts of the UK.


Posted by New_Londoner over 4 years ago
From these numbers, it's worth pointing out the incredible difference in the rate of deployment when you factor in FTTC too. IIRC the UK is adding around 1 millions homes passed per quarter, or rather more than the total number of homes projected to be passed under NBN by June 2013!

And some critics in the UK cite NBN as an example of what we should be doing here. They clearly need to do their homework if the numbers quoted able are correct!
Posted by stxsl over 4 years ago
"it moves towards a 93% fibre coverage target by 2012."

I think this current year is 2013, Andrew! Hence your reference to 2012 should be in the past tense.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
doh! Fixed the year, had the right digits, but brain is still used to typing 2012 I guess.
Posted by mazadillon over 4 years ago
" where FTTH to the home..." does that make sense?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
It does now :-)

It will be interesting to see how take-up evolves as that is the key to encouraging commercial investment in the UK.
Posted by camieabz over 4 years ago
As with HS2, the roll-out of Broadband is largely population-centric. That is, they focus on doing the majority first, rather than having some greater strategy for rolling out across the entire UK at once.

By the time HS2 arrives, HS4 will be available.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
Australia is a potentially a lot easier as the vast majority of it's population are in the large towns and cities dotted around their coastline.

This is why they can roll out FTTP for what seems a quite small cost.

The UK has a lot more diffuse population and that is where the cost can skyrocket.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
I love the way this site bangs on about HS2.

Really would people really like to see the UK government have their hands ANYWHERE near doing a broadband infrastructure project?

It would be overpriced, late and completely useless by the time it is delivered, like any other government project.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago

Actually hardly call it banging on, but HS2 does show there is for some projects commitment for year on year large spends.

I think many people in IT world are already doing less travelling and can see this growing.
Posted by driz over 4 years ago
@undecidedadrian - funny you say that, as in Australia they often say that the rest of the world has it much easier due to higher population density! When everyone has a detached bungalow, you need to dig a lot more up to cover the same number of properties.

This is also why FTTC/VDSL2 doesn't make as much sense in Australia, because you're going to have use many more cabinets than in the UK, or average attainable speeds are going to be lower than the UK (as average distance from cab is going to be longer).

source: me, just another Australian in London
Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
The only way to ensure take up of FTTX is to take all other options out of the equation once it is available. I do not think that there is a way yet for other providers like 02 and Sky etc to use the fiber to unbundle, and if there is not that needs to be addresses first, however low takeup is only BT's own fault. Why would people move to fiber is the DSL they have been using for years is still available and still doing the same thing.
Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
There needs to be a package on FTTX that is a DSL replacement at the same price and with the same conditions, and force them onto that... Then once FTTH is an option, yank the copper...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@vicdupreez If you are running a vertical operation i.e. own loop and are the sole retailer that makes sense.

Ofcom elected to allow VULA which does not unbundle the fibre but hands over the data pretty much in an uncontended style
Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
Yup, completely agree. This is why there needs to be a process for LLU etc in place. What BT could offer is that the LLU lines in the areas that has been unbundled gets "sold" to the other provider. This way they could offload some of the copper, and force everyone onto the FTTX...
Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
That is everyone on a product based on BT's wholesale stuff... Sorry... was not too clear there.
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