Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) NBN: What you need to know

The newest NBN technology type on the block is one of the best.

While the NBN’s Multi Technology Mix (MTM)—one of those potentially confusing NBN terms that needs explaining—may have curbed fixed-line enthusiasm for a metro home not fortunate enough to have a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connection, the newest NBN technology type is one of the best.

Excuse the Americanised spelling in Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC)—it totally should be Fibre-to-the-Kerb in Australia, but is still infinitely better than the confusing Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point—which is likely a hang-up of the original American spelling of the broadband technology. Spelling gripes aside, FTTC brings the fibre network extremely close to home for suburbs serviced by the NBN FTTC rollout, and it’s effectively a fixed-line close-second alternative to the full fibre solution of FTTP.

Most of the best NBN providers will hook you up with FTTC if your address is eligible. In the meantime, we’ve rounded up a few popular NBN 100 picks (currently, the maximum speed for FTTC connections) to get an idea of how much they will cost you.

What is Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN?

Fibre-to-the-Curb is a broadband technology that uses both fibre and copper wire cabling to connect homes to broadband internet. While still a hybrid form of connectivity, the fibre is driven much closer to homes in serviced areas: namely, to the kerbside telecommunications pit outside your home or to the driveway.

The fibre runs all the way to a small Distribution Point Unit (DPU for shortsies) inside the telecommunications box before connecting to existing copper lines to get into the home. For NBN Co, this means saving time and money on not having to dig lead-in conduits to homes.

For users, it means there’s a better chance your FTTC home internet connection speeds will be on the better side of average. That is, of course, assuming your provider has high self-reported typical evening download speeds.

Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN plans

FTTC homes can currently access NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans. We’d advise against signing up for an NBN 12 plan because, while the cheapest option, these plans are considered a bare minimum for internet usage and aren’t as versatile as NBN 25 plans and above, which are where you’ll find some of the best cheap NBN plans. Below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 25 plans with unlimited data.

For those homes seeking a plan on the most popular NBN speed tier, below is a daily updating list of the most popular NBN 50 plans with unlimited data, which is where you’ll find some of our picks of the best NBN plans.

And if you fancy the fastest plans available on FTTC, below is a daily updating list of the most popular NBN 100 plans with unlimited data.

The hybrid Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN breakdown

Fibre-to-the-Curb sees fibre driven to just outside the home, with the signal carried the rest of the way by existing or upgraded copper wiring. While this can lead to speed degradation that’s not likely to be present in a full-fibre FTTP connection, the shorter run of copper wiring means that FTTC download and upload speeds have a better chance of being close to what provider’s advertise.

You should also take into account that copper wiring doesn’t just connect an FTTC home to the NBN’s fibre network; it’s also likely what’s used to connect the outside of your home to internal telecommunications. For houses, this means copper wiring is running from the kerbside telecommunications pit to your house, then through the house to your telephone wall socket (wherever that might be).

For apartment buildings, the run of copper wiring is likely even longer, as the initial run of copper wiring connects the kerbside telecommunications pit to the building’s communications room. The communications room then connects to each individual apartment via the building’s existing wiring. If your building is old, then this is likely copper wiring. And the higher the apartment, the longer the run of copper wiring.

How does Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN work?

Fibre-to-the-Curb uses an advanced form of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology, which utilises the second-iteration of Very-High-Speed DSL (or VDSL2). All forms of DSL technology, including ageing ADSL broadband, use a non-voice spectrum of the copper-wire telephone line to transmit data.

As you can imagine, VDSL2 does a much better job of this than the older ADSL technology, which means that connection technologies like FTTC can reach theoretical speeds of up to 200Mbps download and 100Mbps upload. NBN consumer plans are currently capped at 100Mbps download and 40Mbps upload max for FTTC and other fixed-line technologies.

Even though FTTN, FTTC and Fibre-to-the-Building/Basement (FTTB) all use VDSL2 technology, the latter two NBN connection types drive cable much closer to the home, which is why they can reliably deliver faster download and upload speeds.

You can punch in your address on the NBN website to see whether Fibre-to-the-Curb is available in your area. If it is, like any NBN technology type, you can connect by first speaking to a provider. Your provider will liaise with NBN Co for your in-home setup, which may mean an NBN FTTC connection device (or connection box) is sent to your home or an NBN technician is booked to install the connection device.

Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN modem

You need an NBN connection box, connection device, network termination device, modem (or whatever you want to call it; it’s the same networking gizmo) to get online. In the meantime, ensure you have a compatible router (not to be confused with a modem-router) to connect to the FTTC connection box for sharing your broadband internet around the home.

The router may be supplied by your provider, depending on that provider and the plan you sign up to, or you can supply your own. While bringing your own compatible router to use on an FTTC connection doesn’t cost any extra money, below is a list of popular daily updating plans that either include a router or give you the option to purchase one from a provider.

If an NBN technician is booked, confirm you’ll be home for the initial booking time or speak to your provider to organise one that’s a better fit. On installation day, the NBN technician will need access to the telephone wall socket and a nearby power point to install the FTTC connection device.

If you’re sent your NBN FTTC connection device, connect the included telephone cable to the telephone wall socket, then the power cable to the power point. Finally, turn on the FTTC connection device.

Now wait 20 minutes until the DSL, Connection and Power lights are all blue on your FTTC connection device, then connect your BYO router or the one supplied by your provider. Ensure you connect the Ethernet cable from the FTTC connection box to the correct WAN/NBN/internet port on your router. Connect your devices to the router, either via Ethernet cable or WiFi, and get online.

At this point, you should run an internet speed test when no devices are downloading or uploading to give you the best indication of your expected base speeds. This test is best run when no connected devices are download or uploading. Compare the results with what your provider is advertising to ensure your FTTC speeds are in line with what’s advertised. If you’re not happy with your download speeds, talk to your provider.

Fibre-to-the-Curb NBN upgrade paths

FTTC upgrade paths

Currently, all non-FTTP NBN connection technologies can apply to upgrade their current technology type to FTTP as part of NBN Co’s Technology Choice Program. FTTC can upgrade to FTTP, and FTTC users inside a multi-dwelling unit (e.g. an apartment block) can apply together to also have FTTC switched to FTTB. Please note that there’s an application fee, which doesn’t cover the costs involved with actually having fibre connected directly to your home if your application is successful. There used to be a fee to request a quote, but that’s been removed for individual premises looking to know how much it costs to upgrade from FTTP to FTTC. Spoilers: it’s not cheap.

The good news for patient FTTC NBN customers is that the current NBN Co upgrade plan is for all FTTC homes to be upgraded to FTTP connections from 2021 through to the end of 2023. Once an FTTC area has received the necessary technology upgrades, eligible homes can tap into the upgraded speeds by ordering an NBN 250 or NBN 1000 plan. This means the old plan to upgrade FTTC technologies with G.Fast (a copper-acceleration technology) may no longer be on the card.

For those in eligible FTTC areas receiving the FTTP upgrade treatment, below is a daily updating list of the most popular NBN 250 plans.

And if the prospect of plans with a maximum download speed of 250Mbps isn’t fast enough, below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 1000 plans.

NBN fixed-line technology face-off

So, how does FTTC compare to the other fixed-line connection technologies that are part of part of the NBN?

Fibre-to-the-Curb vs Fibre-to-the-Premises NBN

FTTP is the current gold standard for fixed-line internet around the world, and this is also true of of the NBN in Australia. This is because FTTP links homes directly to the NBN access network with a full fibre connection. While FTTC uses a mix of fibre and copper cabling, the fibre runs to just outside the home, which makes it a reliable option for homes seeking plans up to NBN 100.

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

Conceptually, FTTB is FTTC for apartment blocks, and is actually closest to FTTP in that it brings fibre directly to the building. The only proviso is that the FTTB fibre runs to the building’s telecommunications room and is then reliant on existing building telecommunications wiring, which may be copper.

In this respect, FTTB has a slight theoretical edge over FTTC in that it drives fibre directly inside the building, rather than to the telecommunications pit outside the building. That said, top-floor apartments that make use of older wiring will potentially have a longer run of copper cabling than, say, from a telecommunications pit to a house.

On the plus side, newer apartment buildings or refurbished ones may also have internal fibre telecommunications wiring, which effectively converts FTTB connections to FTTP because it’s an all-fibre connection from the NBN access network to individual apartments.

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

While FTTC uses portions of the existing telecommunications network, namely the copper wiring running from the kerbside telecommunications pit and into your home, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) utilises portions of the existing coaxial cable network. This cable network is what’s used to deliver cable internet and pay TV services like Foxtel.

According to recent ACCC data, FTTC and HFC connections are are close contenders when it comes to the percentage of maximum plan speed delivered during the internet busy period (typically between 7pm and 11pm), with 101% for HFC (up from 90.2%) and 99% for FTTC (up from 90.3%).

Fibre-to-the-Curb vs Fibre-to-the-Node NBN

Both FTTC and FTTN are hybrid fibre/copper connection types that utilise VDSL2 technology to get serviced homes online. FTTN has a fibre connection that leads to a node; from here, homes are connected to the node via copper cabling. These homes may be up to one kilometre away (with a reported average of 400 metres) which impacts overall speed. If you’re too far away, you may be ineligible for NBN100 plans.

Also, a lot more homes can be connected to an FTTN node, whereas only a maximum of four homes are connected to the kerbside telecommunications pits used for FTTC, which means fewer shared resources between homes for FTTC. FTTC also has a much shorter run of copper wiring: handful of metres rather than hundreds of metres. In a pure FTTN vs FTTC comparison, FTTC comes out on top.

That said, FTTN homes are set to be upgraded to FTTP by the end of 2023, which means eligible premises can order an NBN 100 plan or above to tap into the speed and reliability perks of a full fibre internet connection.

* All provider download speeds are representative of self-reported typical evening download speeds and there are other factors that may impact your ability to meet them. Get in touch with your provider if you feel your download speeds are slower than what they should be.