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Aussies face life in the NBN slow lane

Sydney Morning Herald logoSydney Morning Herald 25/03/2020 Adam Turner
© Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Belong is the latest Australian telco to stop selling 100Mbps NBN plans to homes connected via Fibre to the Node or Basement, as those technologies are struggling to keep pace due to their heavy reliance on old infrastructure.

With the bulk of the NBN rollout due to be completed by July, around 40 percent of Australian premises will connect to the nationwide broadband network via Fibre to the Node (FttN or Basement (FttB). FttN relies on the copper phone lines to cover the last few hundred metres to homes, while FttB runs fibre into the basement of large buildings and then relies on the building's internal copper wiring to reach each dwelling.

"A number of our customers on FttN and FttB do not have connections that are capable of achieving 100Mbps," said a Belong spokesperson.

"It is often the case that customers that sign up to these plans will be subsequently notified that they cannot achieve top speed and end up downgrading to a lower plan or leaving."

The issue is widespread, with a quarter of FttN customers on NBN 100 and NBN 50 plans not coming close to receiving the speeds they pay for, according to the ACCC's latest Measuring Broadband Australia report.

The move by Belong follows Telstra's decision last month not to sell 100Mbps plans to customers relying on FttN, FttB or Fibre to the Curb, the latter of which relies on copper phone lines to cover only the last few meters from the footpath into people's homes.

These three technologies combined account for more than half of Australia's NBN connections.

The NBN rollout is on track to complete the "volume build" by mid-year, after which it will go back to addressing the roughly 100,000 premises that were bypassed due to connection difficulties.

As 100Mbps speeds become a pipedream for some Australians, others are likely to gain access to 1000Mbps "gigabit" speeds in the next few years as NBN raises the prospect of upgrading fibre to the premises and HFC cable connections.

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