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Labor to retain "hybrid" NBN: Shorten

A Labor federal government would adapt rather than junk the Coalition’s Multi Technology Mix (MTM) broadband network, according to Opposition leader, Bill Shorten. 

Speaking at a Sky News forum last week, Shorten gave the clearest indication yet that Labor is unlikely to return to a full Fibre-to-the-Premises network model, focussing instead on technological options which allow the extension of fibre closer to the home than FTTN. 

The likely candidate here is Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp), a technology already being trialled by nbn as reported in E-bulletin #4. 

FTTdp brings fibre to the pit (or, in some instances, the pole) outside the premises, with remaining copper lead-in lengths being on average about 30 metres. 

When deployed in conjunction with high speed access technologies like vectored VDSL or G.Fast, it can offer download speeds of 100Mbps and beyond, depending on the length of the final copper line. 

In the UK, British Telecom has recently achieved download speeds of 800Kbps in field trials using G.Fast and FTTdp. 

The extent to which FTTdp is likely to be rolled out under either a Labor or Coalition government is, of course, likely to depend on the maturity of the technology and (a related question) the speed and cost of its deployment. 

Meanwhile, the attitude of Labor towards the HFC component of the Coalition’s NBN remains unclear. 

But should Coalition and Labor policies begin to converge in their approach to fixed network platforms, it would clear the way for a focus on pressing issues which are being largely overlooked in most public debate about the NBN – most notably nbn’s pricing structures and, from the CWU’s point of view, labour conditions on the roll-out. 

The death of a second NBN contractor last week has highlighted the fact that worker training and supervision remain critical issues for this project. A failure to address them systematically will pose a threat not only to network quality but to the wellbeing of the NBN workforce.

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