Technology

iiNet offering VDSL2 in Canberra to compete with NBN

Malcolm Turnbull's "vision for the future" NBN is still years away for some Canberra suburbs, but an alternative network at comparable speeds is gearing up across the city.

Like the NBN, the alternative network uses a fibre to the node system, installed more than a decade ago.

ANU adjunct lecturer Tom Worthington says the Canberra system has the advantage because there is new cable installed to ...
ANU adjunct lecturer Tom Worthington says the Canberra system has the advantage because there is new cable installed to homes, whereas for the NBN the plan is to re-use old phone cables. Photo: Quentin Jones

"About 13 years ago the ACT government had a rush of blood to its head and installed its own fibre to the node broadband system," ANU adjunct lecturer, research school of computer science Tom Worthington said.

"Even before [the network was upgraded], TransACT was much, much faster and more reliable than the ADSL that everybody complained about, so the people that had it considered themselves lucky."

Malcolm Turnbull tours the NBN racks in the Queanbeyan Telstra exchange.
Malcolm Turnbull tours the NBN racks in the Queanbeyan Telstra exchange. Photo: Andrew Meares

The ACT government sold the TransACT network to iiNet several years ago.

The company has been upgrading the network and Brett Hutchison, its general manager of corporate strategy, said he saw the new offering as a direct competitor to the NBN.

Where possible, iiNet would encourage customers to sign up to VDSL2 over the NBN, Mr Hutchison said.

About 40 per cent of Canberra homes had access to the VDSL2 network, he said. Those already on the network should need only to upgrade plans and buy a VDSL2 modem for faster internet.

The original NBN plan, fibre to everywhere, was laudable. But it didn't happen.
The original NBN plan, fibre to everywhere, was laudable. But it didn't happen. Photo: Glenn Hunt

The VDSL2 network reaches speeds that are nearly on par with the NBN.

It offers between 50 and 80 megabits a second download speed and a maximum upload speed of 20 megabits a second.

The NBN, by contrast, is sold in speed tiers, with the highest download speed reaching a maximum of 100 megabits a second, and uploads reaching 40 megabits a second.

The difference between the two is about $30 a month on a 24-month plan, with the NBN more expensive.

TPG bought iiNet in August, which is why there will be more marketing for VDSL2, as the bigger company pushes the network more aggressively to the market – including more competitive pricing.

The benefit of the TransACT network over the NBN was that because TPG owned the network wholly, it became easier to diagnose faults and control the equipment, and provided a smoother experience for the customer, Mr Hutchison said.

Mr Worthington said the Canberra system had the advantage because there was new cable installed to homes, whereas for the NBN the plan was to reuse old phone cables.

He said the TransACT system was "very well engineered", and that during the 2003 Canberra bushfires some poles and wires were destroyed, but the network had kept operating at his home.

About 60 Canberra suburbs were named in the NBN's next rollout, due to start by September 2016, while other suburbs are still experiencing poor internet access.