What are the different types of NBN connections?
To ensure all Australians had access to a broadband connection within a reasonable time frame, in 2013, the NBN Co decided to use a Multi Technology Mix (MTM). This meant that different technologies would be used for the nbn™. The primary infrastructure is always fibre, but in many instances, existing network technology is used to connect customers to the nearest fibre node. The benefit of this approach was undeniably speed; by 2021 the first stage of the nbn rollout was complete, with most customers having access to a nbn connection. The focus has now shifted to connecting newer developments and improving the technology and speeds in regional and rural areas. The downside is that not all connection types can connect at the highest possible speed.
So, what are the different types of nbn connections, and how can you find out what type of connection your address uses? Finding out the connection technology is easy. Enter your address on our nbn™ rollout map and you will not only find out if the nbn is available in your area, but also the connection type used.
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)
This is the purest nbn connection, with a fibre optic line connecting the premises to the nearest fibre node. A nbn access device and modem are installed inside the premises, and a small utility box is installed outside. A fibre optic line connects the utility box to the access device, which connects to your modem via an ethernet cable. Both the access device and your modem require power to work, with a battery back-up power supply available for when the power is out. For first-time installations, a nbn technician will need access to your premises to complete the setup. An FTTP connection supports all nbn speed tiers up to a theoretical maximum download speed of 1 Gbps. However, FTTP connections are not widely available in all locations.
Fibre to the Curb (FTTC)
One of the more common connection types, FTTC installations sees a Distribution Point Unit (DPU) installed on the curb or in a small pit in the street. A modem and nbn connection box are set up inside the premises, with the connection box connecting to your old telephone wall socket. The existing copper phone wiring connects your premises to the DPU, which in turn is connected to the nearest fibre node. Other premises on your street share the same DPU, which can affect the speed of your connection. Although a nbn technician can be arranged, it isn’t required, with self-installation available for FTTC connections. Most nbn speed tiers are supported by FTTC connections, with a theoretical maximum download speed of 500 Mbps.
Fibre to the Node (FTTN)
This is the most common nbn connection type in use across the country. The fibre node is a street cabinet that multiple premises connect to using existing copper phone wiring. The node connects to the nearest exchange via a fibre optic line, and each neighbourhood would have multiple nodes. With FTTN connections, your modem connects directly to the existing telephone wall socket. No installation at your premises is necessary except if your address doesn’t have a telephone wall socket. FTTN connections only support theoretical maximum download speeds of 100 Mbps, with your actual speed also affected by how close to the fibre node you are.
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)
Like FTTN connections, HFC connections also connect to the nearest fibre node. However, the connection from the fibre node to your premises uses existing Pay TV or cable TV network wiring. A nbn connection box will be supplied, and in most instances, an nbn technician will need access to the premises. The connection box plugs into the existing cable TV outlet, or you can ask that a new outlet be installed. The connection box also connects to your modem via an ethernet cable. Both the connection box and your modem require power, and a battery back-up can be supplied. Unlike FTTN connections, HFC connections support all the top nbn speed tiers, with a theoretical maximum download speed of 1 Gbps if available.
Fibre to the Building (FTTB)
Used in apartment buildings and similar structures, FTTB has a fibre optic line connecting the nearest fibre node to your building’s communications room. From there, the existing communications infrastructure is used to connect to each apartment. Although a technician might need access to the building’s communications room, they won’t need access to your apartment if you already have a telephone wall socket. Your modem connects directly to the wall socket. Like FTTN connections, FTTB connections currently support a maximum theoretical download speed of 100 Mbps. But the main fibre optic line running from your building to the fibre node is shared by all other residents, which could further influence your actual speed.
All the above nbn connection types are known as fixed line connections, but there are two wireless nbn connection types used in regional and rural areas of Australia.
nbn Fixed Wireless
Fixed Wireless connections use radio signals to connect your premises wirelessly to a nearby nbn transmission tower. New installations require a nbn technician to complete, and they will need access to your premises during the installation. An antenna is installed to the outside of your premises for sending and receiving the radio signals. This connects via wires to the nbn connection box that will be set up inside your premises, with your modem connection to the connection box via an ethernet cable. Although the NBN Co is constantly working to improve this technology, it currently only supports a maximum theoretical download speed of 75 Mbps. However, you should expect typical evening speeds of only 30 Mbps. Interference from other wireless devices and obstacles in the path of the radio signal can further impact actual speeds.
Sky Muster Satellite
As the name implies, Sky Muster Satellite connections use satellites and satellite dishes to send and receive data for your nbn connection. Mostly reserved for rural areas and the islands along Australia’s coast, a nbn technician is needed for new installations. They will also need access to your premises. A satellite dish will be installed outside your premises, with cables connecting the dish to a new outlet installed inside your premises. Your modem connects directly to the new outlet. Like nbn Fixed Wireless connections, this technology does not yet support high-speed connections. Two speed tiers are available, with maximum theoretical download speeds of 12 and 25 Mbps. Additionally, you may be subject to a Fair Use Policy and data allowances.
The NBN Co does state that all nbn™ customers have the potential to switch from other nbn connection types to a FTTP connection. However, there is a fee for doing so, with a multitude of factors that affect the complexity–and final cost–of doing this.