Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) NBN: What you need to know

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February 21, 2022
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When it comes to fixed-line NBN technologies for metro areas, most of them are some form of hybrid technology. Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) uses a mix of fibre and coaxial cable, while all others that aren’t Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) use a combination of fibre and copper wiring.

Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) is one of those fibre/copper hybrids, and here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is Fibre-to-the-Building NBN?

Depending on who you talk to, FTTB is either short for Fibre-to-the-Basement or Fibre-to-the-Building. Perhaps because “Basement” is a wee bit ominous, the trend is towards “Building” these days. Either way, it’s the same tech that involves a fibre connection between an area’s nearest Point of Interconnect (PoI) and a fibre node in an apartment building’s telecommunications room. From here, individual apartments are connected via the building’s telecommunications wiring which, depending on the age of the building, will either be old copper, upgraded copper or fibre.

NBN FTTB vs non-NBN FTTB

Fibre-to-the-Building is mostly synonymous with NBN in Australia, but providers like TPG and iiNet offer alternatives. It’s the same technology except it’s only available in select areas and it runs on a provider network rather than the NBN. Speeds are comparable but provider FTTB may work out cheaper than an NBN plan.

Fibre-to-the-Building NBN plans

Those homes serviced by Fibre-to-the-Building can sign up to NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50 or NBN 100 speed tiers.

For an idea of how that looks, compare the results below for a daily updating list of popular NBN 12 plans from our database:

We consider NBN 25 to be the true entry-level NBN speed tier, and you can see popular picks from our comparison engine below:

For a good mix of value and performance, consider plans on the NBN 50 speed tier:

Finally, FTTB homes can also sign up to NBN 100 plans:

How Fibre-to-the-Building NBN works

Fibre-to-the-Building is very similar to Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN), in that both NBN technologies use a mix of fibre and copper to connect homes to the NBN. Unlike the much-maligned FTTN technology, though, the copper portion of an FTTB connection is much shorter: where FTTN has copper lengths that can run into the hundreds of metres (450m on average), FTTB is more likely to be double-digit metres.

The closer an apartment is to the building’s telecommunications room, the shorter the cable length so, technically, the better the potential for faster speeds. In terms of equipment, FTTB is simplified in that a VDSL2-compatible modem-router connects to a telephone wall outlet to utilise the digital portion of copper wiring. The modem-router is designed to both send and receive internet data as well as share the internet around the home.

Fibre-to-the-Building NBN speeds

As touched on above, overall speeds are most likely determined by how far away an apartment is from the building’s telecommunications room. If the building has fibre cabling, this is less of a concern, but older buildings with copper wiring between apartments and telecommunications room may experience speed variance based on the quality of the cabling and its length.

Still, unless otherwise stated by an NBN provider, expect to hit a provider’s self-reported typical evening download speeds, and if you don’t, reach out to your provider for an explanation. Providers like Telstra will confirm speed expectations after you’re connected. Speaking of Telstra, the provider outlines the factors that may impact max potential FTTB NBN speeds:

  • The length of copper wiring between apartment and telecommunications room.
  • The quality of the copper cabling between apartment and telecommunications room (corrosion, joint quality, etc.).
  • The layout and quality of cabling inside an apartment.
  • Potential internal and external electrical interference.

Fibre-to-the-Building NBN modem

Like FTTN, Fibre-to-the-Building connections use a modem-router to get apartments online. The modem part handles the internet connection while the router bit shares the internet connection with the devices in your home, via WiFi or Ethernet. Most providers will allow you to BYO NBN-compatible modem-router, but others may provide one or give you the option to purchase one.

If you opt for a modem-router from your provider, it should arrive preconfigured, which means you don’t have to tinker with networking settings that you otherwise might with a BYO modem-router. For those interested in providers with an NBN-compatible modem option, check out the daily updating list of popular plans below.

Fibre-to-the-Building NBN upgrade path

Unlike FTTN and FTTC, both of which are targeted for FTTP upgrades in the coming years, NBN Co has yet to solidify upgrade pathways for Fibre-to-the-Basement, though G.fast has been mentioned (it has potential for gigabit speeds). Unless this changes, the only option is to order a free quote from the NBN Technology Choice Program. While the quote is free, the actual cost to upgrade eligible homes can cost many thousands of dollars.

If you do upgrade from FTTB to FTTP, below is a snapshot of popular NBN 250 plans from our comparison engine.

Alternatively, upgraded homes can go all out on NBN 1000. If that sounds like you, check out popular plans from our database below.

Fibre-to-the-Building vs other fixed-line NBN technologies

If you were to rank the NBN technologies in terms of speed potential, this is how they’d look:

  1. FTTP
  2. HFC
  3. FTTC
  4. FTTB
  5. FTTN
  6. Fixed Wireless
  7. NBN satellite

Because Fixed Wireless NBN plans tap out at around NBN 50 speeds and NBN satellite can only reach NBN 25 speeds, they’re not really a fair comparison for FTTB. Instead, below is how FTTB looks in comparison to other fixed-line NBN technologies.

Fibre-to-the-Building vs Fibre-to-the-Premises NBN

Fibre-to-the-Premises is the gold standard of Australian broadband and the only upgrade choice for homes because it’s the fastest, most reliable and future-proofed technology available. It’s compatible with NBN 250, NBN 500 and NBN 1000 plans because FTTP uses a full fibre connection, whereas Fibre-to-the-Basement uses fibre for most of its connection and a building’s existing wiring to complete the connection between telecommunications room and apartment.

Fibre-to-the-Building vs Hybrid Fibre Coaxial NBN

Hybrid Fibre Coaxial is second only to FTTP as far as fixed-line rankings go because it’s capable of achieving NBN speeds above NBN 100. While FTTB taps out at NBN 100, most HFC homes can sign up to NBN 250 plans and select HFC abodes can buy an NBN 1000 plan. Despite having similar hybrid technologies for bringing internet into the home, HFC’s use of the existing coaxial network has greater speed potential than the digital portion of copper wiring (for now at least).

Fibre-to-the-Building vs Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN

Fibre-to-the-Curb and FTTB are very close in terms of NBN technologies. Both have long fibre runs that use a short run of copper wiring to complete the connection. And both can reach speeds on NBN 100 plans that are likely faster than FTTN plans. Out of the two, the NBN technology that has the edge is ultimately determined by how much copper wiring is used to connect a home.

Fibre-to-the-Building vs Fibre-to-the-Node NBN

Both Fibre-to-the-Node and FTTB use NBN-compatible modem-routers to get online and both have a mix of fibre and copper to get homes online. FTTB has the foundation to be faster and more reliable, though, thanks to a significantly shorter run of copper wiring to complete its connection to the NBN. While all FTTB homes should be able to comfortably sign up to NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans, certain FTTN homes may only be able to sign up to NBN 25 or NBN 50 plans.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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