FTTN (Fibre-to-the-Node) NBN explained

Everything you need to know about NBN Co’s most controversial metro technology, Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN).

Published on January 13, 2022
7 min read

The original plan for the NBN was a full fibre rollout for metro areas with NBN Fixed Wireless and NBN satellite for rural, regional, remote and offshore parts of Australia. Eventually, the metro part of that plan changed to a mix of hybrid technologies, including Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC), Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN).

Of the split away from full fibre technologies, or Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP), FTTN proved to be the most controversial because of concerns over its lack of future-proofing and also being able to reliably receive high-speed broadband with a sometimes lengthy dependency on copper wiring.

For a basic comparison, below is a daily updating list of the most popular NBN 50 plans with unlimited data, which happens to be the most popular speed tier for all NBN connections, including FTTN homes.

Popular plans for FTTN NBN connections

What is FTTN (Fibre-to-the-Node) NBN?

Fibre-to-the-Node is a broadband technology available in certain metro areas of Australia. It’s one of five technologies available to metro homes, and it’s the one that relies the most on copper wiring. NBN Co uses fibre to connect the nearest PoI (Point of Interconnect) to an NBN node, which is effectively an above-ground telecommunications box.

The connection from the NBN node to homes in FTTN areas are then connected via existing or upgraded copper wiring. On average, homes in FTTN areas have an average copper wiring length of 450 metres, with around two-thirds of homes within 400 metres of an NBN Node.

Because copper wiring was built for voice communication and isn’t as fast for internet as fibre, the longer the copper wiring between NBN node and FTTN home, the more likely the quality of the connection may suffer (including speeds).

FTTN NBN diagram

Image source: nbnco

FTTN NBN plans

FTTN homes can access four of the six main plan options when connecting to the NBN. This means these homes can sign up for bare-bolts NBN 12, entry-level NBN 25, popular NBN 50 and speedier NBN 100 plans.

There aren’t many providers that sell NBN 12 plans these days, likely because NBN 12 speeds aren’t a whole lot faster than the ADSL2+ speeds of yesteryear. Still, if you only have the most basic of internet needs, below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 12 plans from our comparison engine.

If you have more than one internet-using person in your home, we’d recommend treating NBN 25 as the true entry-level NBN speed tier over NBN 12. The list below has popular NBN 25 plans from our comparison engine, all with unlimited data.

For homes with a few occupants, NBN 50 is a great choice because it’s a good mix of monthly value and speed versatility. Below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 50 plans with unlimited data from our comparison engine.

Finally, if you want the fastest NBN plan you can get today on an FTTN connection, you want an NBN 100 plan. While Telstra stopped selling NBN 100 plans to FTTN, FTTC and Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) homes, below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 100 plans from our comparison engine that have unlimited data.

Copper vs fibre: How FTTN NBN works

Telstra said it stopped offering NBN pans to FTTN, FTTB and FTTC homes because they “do not have connections that are capable of achieving 100Mbps.” While a full fibre connection can easily offer parity between self-reported typical evening download speeds and what you get when you sign up for most speed tiers, actual speeds on an FTTN connection is more of a moving target.

That’s because FTTN utilises the second iteration of Very-High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL2) technology to get homes online. In terms of the copper part of the connection, it uses the non-voice spectrum of the telephone line to transmit internet data. While part of any metro connection on the NBN network will always be fibre, it’s the rest of the connection that can cause complications. In the case of FTTN, it’s the copper that connects homes to the NBN node.

The longer the run of copper wiring is between NBN node and FTTN home, the more likely it is that the overall quality of the internet connection won’t be up to snuff. This is further complicated by how old the copper wiring is, where older copper may cause issues with consistency or speed.

VDSL2 technology is used to connect FTTC and FTTB homes, too, but they tend to fare better in comparison to FTTN homes because the copper wiring run is much shorter, generally measured in double-digit metres rather than triple-digit metres.

If you’re uncertain of the NBN technology servicing your home, head to the NBN website and punch in your address near the top of the page. Click on ‘View results’ and you’ll see what NBN technology is used to connect your home under the ‘Technology used in your connection’ section of the results page.

FTTN NBN speeds

NBN Co estimates that 76% of FTTN homes aren’t capable of NBN 100 speeds, but also says that nine out of 10 FTTN homes net download speeds of between 50Mbps and 100Mbps. Ultimately, the NBN speeds for FTTN homes is determined by how far away each home is from the NBN node.

According to Aussie Broadband, FTTN homes that are more than 700 metres away from an NBN node can expect download speeds between 25Mbps to 30Mbps. Telstra notes that the following factors can influence the max speeds for FTTN homes:

  • Copper length between NBN node and FTTN home
  • Copper quality (including joints and corrosion) between NBN node and FTTN home
  • Inclement weather (including heavy rain)
  • Layout and quality of in-home wiring
  • External and internal electrical interference

If you want to test your NBN internet speed, use the tool below:

FTTN NBN modem

FTTN homes need a VDSL-compatible modem-router to connect to the NBN. These networking devices do the combined job of a modem (handling the internet connection) and a router (managing devices on the network in the home), which means you can connect your devices to a compatible FTTN modem via Ethernet or WiFi.

You can either source your own FTTN NBN compatible modem-router, bring one from a previous provider or shift to a provider that offers a compatible device (ideally preconfigured). Below is a list of popular NBN 50 plans from our comparison engine that come with unlimited data and have the option to include a modem.

Configuring your FTTN modem-router shouldn’t require an NBN technician to assist with installation, but your provider will advise you if that’s not the case. Follow any installation steps that come with your modem-router to get going; generally speaking, this should involve connecting the FTTN modem-router to a power outlet, the telephone wall socket, (optionally) connecting a landline telephone, then connecting your home devices via WiFi or Ethernet.

FTTN NBN upgrade paths

There are currently 3.5 million homes in Australia that can sign up for NBN 1000 plans. NBN Co has plans to upgrade 2 million more homes by 2023. The current priority is upgrading FTTN homes to FTTP abodes which, once upgraded, will be capable of signing up for NBN 250 and NBN 1000 plans.

If you’re in an FTTN home, it’s a case of playing the waiting game until your area has been upgraded to FTTP. But for those who are impatient, you can have a look at the NBN Technology Choice Program. This program lets you get a free quote to see how much it will cost to upgrade your FTTN home to FTTP. Be warned, though: you’ll want to be sitting down when the quote comes through because it will very likely be many thousands of dollars.

Whether you pay to upgrade or patiently wait for fibre to be rolled out in your area to replace the copper portion of your connection to the NBN, FTTN homes must order an NBN 100 plan (at least) to complete the upgrade. Below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 100 plans with unlimited data from our comparison engine.

If that’s not fast enough for you, FTTP homes are also capable of signing up for NBN 250 plans, which can net download speeds of up to 250Mbps. Below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 250 plans from our comparison engine, which include unlimited data.

Finally, if you want the fastest NBN speeds you can get in Australia, FTTP homes are also capable of signing up for NBN 1000 plans, which can clock speeds up to seven times faster than the best NBN 100 speeds during the busy evening period. For comparison, below is a daily updating list of popular NBN 1000 plans from our comparison engine that have at least 1TB of data.

FTTN vs other fixed-line NBN technologies

As we mentioned at the start of this article, the original NBN plan was to have FTTP for all metro areas and NBN Fixed Wireless for regional and remote areas alongside NBN Sky Muster satellite for rural and offshore places. Generally speaking, all fixed-line NBN technologies used to service metro areas are better in terms of speed and reliability than NBN Fixed Wireless and NBN satellite areas.

If you were to list NBN technologies in terms of their speed and reliability, you’d be looking at this kind of ranking:

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

When it comes to comparing NBN technologies in metro areas, here’s how FTTN fares against its broadband siblings.

FTTN vs FTTP (Fibre-to-the-Premises NBN)

Given the original plan was for metro homes to have FTTP connections, it should come as no surprise that this is the gold standard for broadband internet (not just in Australia but around the world). On top of this, NBN Co is planning to upgrade FTTN homes to FTTP, which should help to highlight that FTTP is a future-proofed broadband technology that’s superior to FTTN.

FTTN vs FTTB (Fibre-to-the-Building) NBN

These two NBN technologies are very similar because both use a hybrid mix of fibre and copper to connect homes to the NBN. The difference is FTTB homes have a longer run of fibre, right into the telecommunications room of a building, then individual homes in the building are connected via existing wiring, which may be copper.

Because of the shorter copper run, FTTB can deliver faster and more reliable speeds with fewer disclaimers than FTTN. Additionally, FTTB buildings may have fibre running from the telecommunications room to the individual homes, which effectively converts an FTTB connection into an FTTP one.

FTTN vs HFC (Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial) NBN

HFC (Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial) technology is second only to FTTP, as evidenced by being allowed to order NBN 250 plans and, for select homes, NBN 1000 plans, too. While both HFC and FTTN are hybrid connections, HFC uses the existing coaxial cable network—the same one used to deliver cable internet and pay TV Services—which is a lot faster than copper wiring. 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%).

FTTN vs FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Curb) NBN

As with the FTTN vs FTTB debate above, the FTTN vs FTTC story is another hybrid tale where it all boils down to the length of copper wiring. For FTTN, that has an average of hundreds of metres; for FTTC, the copper wiring runs from the telecommunications pit outside a home. This equates to an average distance of around 40 metres of copper instead of 450 metres, which means FTTC homes should expect to receive reliably faster internet.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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