When it comes to the National Broadband Network (NBN) it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the jargon and technical terms that are frequently thrown around. Three of these confusing acronyms are:
- FTTP (Fibre to the Premises);
- FTTN (Fibre to the Node), and;
- FTTC (Fibre to the Curb).
Each of these terms refers to an option for connecting your home to the NBN. While they may sound interchangeable, each option can make a big difference to your home broadband service, and what the best NBN plans to suit your needs may be.
What is ‘fibre’?
In telecommunications circles, ‘fibre’ refers to fibre optic cable. These cables transmit data using pulses of light, rather than the electrical pulses that run through the copper phone lines that connected your old landline telephone. This allows fibre optic cables to send and receive more data at higher speeds, with less degradation over distance than copper cables.
Because the NBN predominantly relies on fibre optic cables to send and receive data rather than copper, your devices can enjoy faster internet speeds, whether you’re browsing the web, gaming online, or streaming TV.
What is Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)?
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is where the NBN’s fibre optic cables run right up to your place of residence, office or other place of business. It's akin to having as direct a connection to the internet for your home or business as it gets, and means all of your computers and smart devices can enjoy the full benefits of the NBN’s high speed data. You can also qualify for some of the fastest and highest bandwidth NBN plans.
FTTP is generally considered the fastest of the three options, as your home internet will be running almost entirely through newer fibre optic cables rather than older copper wires. However, this connection type may not be available to every household in every area, due to various infrastructure challenges.
What is Fibre to the Node (FTTN)?
Fibre to the Node (FFTN) is where the NBN’s fibre optic cables come to an end at a central node that services the needs of a wide area. These nodes are often (though not always) located in old telephone exchanges. Each residence in the area is connected to this node using existing copper telephone lines.
Most of Australia was initially connected to the NBN via FTTN, as taking advantage of the existing copper infrastructure was one of the quickest and simplest ways to roll out the NBN technology.
However, FTTN internet speeds may be slower as your data still needs to travel through copper wires linking your residence to the node. The greater your physical distance from the node, the slower your internet speed may be – if the node is 400 to 700 metres or more from your home, you could notice a significant drop in speed compared to closer residences. This could in turn mean that you may not be eligible for some of the faster NBN plans from retailers.
What is Fibre to the Curb (FTTC)?
Almost a hybrid or compromise between FTTP and FTTN, Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) runs fibre optic cables right up to the curb in front of your house, before switching to copper wire for the final distance to your premises.
Because FTTC still relies in part on copper wires, you may not enjoy internet speeds as fast as FTTP. However, because the copper connections only go as far as the street outside your house, rather than to a distant node, you should still enjoy faster speeds than an FTTN connection.
What about Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC)?
Not technically a "FTT" acronym like everything else here, Australian NBN connections encompass another fibre technology called Hybrid Fibre Coaxial, which is essentially a version of the NBN using the fibre optic cables used by a pay TV or cable network.
Cable services such as Foxtel use a form of fibre optic cabling to provide TV services, and in HFC NBN connections, that same cable line is used for your internet connection.
Because HFC is similar to FTTP, it can therefore be as fast as Fibre to the Premises, but because the cable line is also used for television services in your neighbourhood, using HFC may mean slower speeds when other people are using it, such as for TV or NBN connections.
How do I choose between FTTP, FTTN and FTTC?
You may not always get a choice in what kind of NBN connection your residence gets. It may depend on the physical location of your property in relation to the physical location of the fibre optic cable network, and the infrastructure in your local area.
Most of Australia was initially connected to the NBN via FTTN. However, because of the relatively slow speeds, NBNCo has been working to upgrade many areas to FTTC or FTTP. Depending on the area you live, it's entirely possible you won't have any of these connection types, and may have HFC instead. You can check what type of connections are in your area by entering your address into NBNCo’s website.
If you’d like to upgrade your NBN connection from FTTN to FTTC or FTTP, and benefit from faster NBN plans, you may need to make a request to NBNCo via its Technology Choice Program. Be aware that you may need to wait while the infrastructure in your area gets updated, and there may be other costs involved. Consider contacting an NBN plan retailer and/or NBNCo for more information about the costs involved, and what value the connection could potentially offer you.