The NBN box explained

We unbox the essential need-to-know info for understanding the role of the NBN connection box in your home.

January 16, 2022
4 min read

To get online with a home internet connection, you need a modem and a router or a modem-router. The modem’s job is to handle the internet and the router’s job is to share the internet via Ethernet and/or WiFi around the home. That should be relatively straightforward.

Unfortunately, “modem” is often interchangeably used with “router” or “modem-router”. Meanwhile, “modem-routers” can also be called “gateways”. And that’s just the start of the complications because there are other names for the not-so-humble modem, including multiple terms when it comes to the NBN.

What is an NBN connection box?

It’s easiest to think of an NBN connection box as a modem. The NBN box is the device that’s likely installed by NBN Co—but may, in some instances, be eligible for self-installation—and it’s where your connection to the NBN starts in your home. Confusingly, the term “Network Termination Device” is also used instead of “modem” or “NBN connection box”, which is a somewhat in-your-face way of saying that’s where NBN Co’s responsibility starts in terms of network connectivity (heading out from your home).

As an NBN modem, the NBN connection box needs power to operate, plus it also needs an Ethernet connection to a router or modem-router (in ‘bridge’ mode, aka ‘router’ mode) to share the NBN connection with devices around your home.

How do I get an NBN connection box?

The NBN rollout is complete, which means the vast majority of homes in Australia can now connect to an NBN plan. If your home is connected via one of the NBN technologies listed above, then you need an NBN connection box if you want to sign up for an NBN plan. And that’s exactly how you get one: by signing up for an NBN plan with a provider that services your area.

Even if you sign up with a provider that requires you to bring your own router, an NBN connection box is typically installed or sent by NBN Co. Your provider will have more information for you on the ins and outs of the NBN connection process, so ask them for more details on when you can expect your NBN connection box to arrive or be installed.

If your NBN connection box is missing or you need a replacement, speak to your provider when signing up for an NBN plan.

For comparison, below is a daily updating list of popular NBN plans to consider for your home.

Which technologies use an NBN connection box?

Here’s the thing, when it comes to NBN boxes, it doesn’t matter if you have a Telstra NBN connection, TPG NBN connection or you’re with any other NBN provider. Having an NBN connection box is determined by the NBN technology that connects your home, not the provider you’ve signed up with. You’ll need an NBN box to connect to an NBN plan if your home is connected via the following NBN technologies:

  • Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP)
  • Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)
  • Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC)
  • Fixed Wireless
  • Sky Muster satellite

For any of those five NBN technologies, you need an NBN connection box connected to a router to get online. While the NBN connection box may look different between technology types, it serves the same function: to connect to the NBN and get the devices in your home online by connecting the NBN box to a compatible router.

Note that if your home is connected to the NBN via Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB) or Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) technologies, you’ll use a VDSL2-compatible modem-router instead of an NBN connection box.

What NBN connection do I have?
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To find out which NBN technology connects your home, head over to the NBN website. At the top of the page, enter your address and confirm it from the dropdown menu, then select ‘View results’. On the results page, keep an eye out for the ‘Technology used in your connection’ section on the right. This will list whether your home is connected to the NBN via FTTP, HFC, FTTC, FTTB, FTTN, Fixed Wireless or Sky Muster satellite technology.

FTTP NBN connection box installation considerations

If your home is connected to the NBN via FTTP, you’ll need an NBN technician to install the equipment, which involves gear installation inside and outside your home. It starts with an NBN utility box outside, which connects to the NBN connection box inside. Optionally, there may be a battery backup connected to this NBN connection box. The NBN connection box then connects to a router via Ethernet cable.

HFC NBN connection box installation considerations

For homes connected via HFC, you may be able to opt for self-installation or an NBN technician may be required to visit to install your NBN connection box. Either way, an NBN utility box outside your home connects to the coaxial wall outlet inside your home. A coaxial cable is connected to the NBN connection box (optionally, a splitter may be used if you have a pay TV service like Foxtel), then an Ethernet cable connects the NBN connection box to a router.

FTTC NBN connection box installation considerations

If you’re in an FTTC home, you may also be eligible for self-installation of the NBN connection box, or an NBN technician may visit to install it. Outside of power, the NBN connection box needs to be connected to the telephone wall socket via a telephone cable. The NBN connection box then connects to a router via Ethernet cable.

Note that FTTC NBN connection boxes audibly click when trying to connect; this sound is normal and indicates the NBN box is attempting to reverse-power the Distribution Point Unit in the telecom pit outside your home.

Fixed Wireless NBN connection box installation considerations

Fixed Wireless homes will need a visit from an NBN technician to test the signal strength and install the NBN outdoor antenna in an appropriate location. The outdoor antenna connects to a wall outlet inside the home, which then connects to the NBN connection box. Connect the NBN box to a compatible router with an Ethernet cable and you’re good to go.

While we have a page dedicated to the best Fixed Wireless NBN plans, below is a daily updating list of popular NBN Fixed Wireless plans from our comparison engine.

Sky Muster satellite NBN connection box installation considerations

Sky Muster homes are very similar to Fixed Wireless, except replace the NBN outdoor antenna with an NBN satellite dish (that’s also outside). This satellite dish connects to a wall outlet inside, then to the NBN connection box and, finally, a router (via Ethernet cable).

We have a page dedicated to the best NBN satellite plans, but below is a daily updating list of popular NBN Sky Muster satellite 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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