NBN Co has begun its fibre to the node (FTTN) rollout at last. The project has left the trial stage with the commencement of work in Belmont, on the central coast of New South Wales.
The company did not say how long it will be before the town is fully connected, only that it expects half a million premises around the country to be ready for service by the middle of next year.
Another target is to have 3.7 million premises ready for service by mid-2018 with 1.6 million actually connected. Connection figures always lag the ready for service numbers by a significant amount.
The long term argument for FTTN is said to be that avoiding the need to install a new connection to every home and business means a quicker rollout. This will also be the case for the NBN's HFC network using the cables acquired from Telstra and Optus.
On the other hand, the speed available via FTTN depends on the distance (more accurately, the length of the cable) between the node and the premises, and also on the condition of the copper cable.
So today's claim from NBN Co that the FTTN trial has delivered "wholesale speeds of 100Mbps (download) and 40Mbps (upload)" should be read in the context of CEO Bill Morrow's earlier statement that these speeds only applied to premises up to 400 metres from the node, and that those 700 metres away get as little as 50Mbps.
50Mbps might be an improvement on ADSL and ADSL2 speeds, but it falls well short of the 100Mbps promised for premises served by the fixed-line portion of the original NBN.
And for all the talk of applying the emerging G.fast technology at a later date, that is only expected to allow a 100/40Mbps service over 250 metres of copper.
To provide a Gigabit service using G.fast, which has been mentioned as a possibility by NBN Co, the distance between the node and the individual premises would need to be less than 100 metres. Combine that with Telstra's use of thinner gauge copper wires than assumed for G.fast (which will result in lower speeds) and - if you think we are going to need connections faster than 100Mbps in the reasonably near future - it sounds like the 'do it right the first time' message from the pro-FTTP camp should have been heeded.