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Faster NBN (FTTN)

Last week I wrote how our house had finally been switched over to the the National Broadband Network (NBN).  Rather than having fibre direct to our premises (FTTP), we are connected by the inferior Fibre to the Node (FTTN) system, where the last link from a neighborhood cabinet uses old copper cable.  Don’t get me wrong, NBN via FTTN is still an improvement over the old ADSL technology, and there was no need for our front yard to be dug up for new cable, nevertheless I wasn’t seeing the speeds I’d heard were possible on the NBN.

Luckily our existing broadband plan had expired, so I could shop around for a better deal.  It’s interesting that our carrier, Telstra, doesn’t mention internet speed in any of their literature, advertising or on their websites.  They sell on data capacity, but their default connection speed is 25Mb/s download / 5Mb/s upload (known as simply 25/5), which is pretty close to the speeds I was seeing on our new NBN connection.  It turns out that NBNco offers five tiers of broadband speed; tier one is actually slower than a good ADSL connection, tier two is marginally better, up to tier five which offers a theoretical maximum speed of 100/40.

The five NBN broadband internet wholesale speed tiers

By making Tier Two speeds (25/5) their default NBN speed, and not promoting faster alternatives, the majority of Telstra’s customers wont know any different.  The average customer will still see an improvement over ADSL and their phone line might be a bit clearer, so Telstra is hoping they’ll be saying “this NBN is fantastic”.  What’s really happening is Telstra is saving a bucket load by not paying the higher wholesale price for the faster NBN speed tiers, while selling one of the most expensive Tier Two NBN plans on the market, with added extras to make it sound like a good deal.  I wonder how many Telstra customers actually use their “free” TelstraTV or TelstraAir.

When asked directly, Telstra will admit to faster NBN speeds being available as a “Speed Boost” for an additional $20 on top of your plan.

Twitter screenshot Telstra NBN speeds

Now I knew that FTTN wouldn’t give me the full 100/40 speed, but as the speeds I was getting were at the top of the Tier Two range, there was a pretty good chance I could get better.

I went into my local Telstra store to see if I could negotiate a deal without the extras (TelstraTV, etc) but with a higher speed.  I was surprised the store staff couldn’t negotiate at all, even when talking to the manager, I was told they could withhold the TelstraTV but I’d still be charged the full plan price.  I couldn’t even pay for the Speed Boost on my existing plan, I’d have to sign up for a new contract.

I was even more surprised to hear another store employee trying to explain the NBN to a customer.  She said “…everybody has a node out the front of their house and that’s better than fibre into your garage”.  There’s a staff training failure right there, each node services over 100 homes.  We don’t have a single node on our street, the nearest one is a couple of blocks away.

With no success in store, I tried the Telstra online chat support service.  They couldn’t negotiate either and suggest I call and speak to someone in person.  I didn’t really feel like talking to an overseas call centre, so I started to look at other carriers more seriously.  iiNet had a good deal, TPG an even better offer so I decided to ditch Telstra and sign up with TPG.  Before I could register with TPG the internet dropped out.  Telstra have suffered a few outages this year, how ironic that this disconnection prevented me from leaving them!

Later that night, when the internet was back up, rather than go through the TPG sign up process I decided I would try to call Telstra. The guy I spoke to said he couldn’t help with NBN because he was an ADSL expert (time for some re-training mate).  He put me through to the “NBN Department” and said if they don’t answer, or you get disconnected, call them direct on 1800 834 273.  After being on hold for around 15 minutes I gave up.  A bit later I tried the direct number which was answered straight away by a nice guy who understood what I wanted.  He looked at my account and saw we also had five mobile services plus Foxtel and that we had been a long term Telstra customer, he said “I reckon we can do something for you, let me check with my boss“.  After about 30 seconds he came back to me and said “we can ditch the TelstraTV and give you the Speed Boost for free“.  That sounded pretty good to me so I agreed.

Within an hour of agreeing to the deal, we were switched over to the faster NBN speed tier, which for our house is just under 40/17.

Top speed tier NBN FTTN SpeedTest

NBN switched over

A week and a half since plugging in our new NBN compatable modem, supplied free by Telstra, we were finally switched over to the new National Broadband Network (NBN) today.  I’ll admit to being a little bit excited at finally getting faster internet, even though I knew it wouldn’t be super-fast, because we’ve only been connected via FTTN (Fibre to the Node – a cabinet on the street that utilises existing copper wire for the final link in the broadband connection) rather than FTTP (Fibre to the Premises – fibre optic cables all the way to your house).

I completed a few internet speed tests tonight using and saw the download speed vary considerably, the best only slightly faster than the ADSL2+ speeds we used to see.  The big improvement has been the upload speed, which used to be around 0.7Mb/s, and now more than 4.7Mb/s.  For someone like me who uploads a lot of hi-res photos, and a few videos, as well as backing up all my files to CrashPlan and/or OneDrive clouds, this big improvement to upload speeds is my highlight of the NBN.

We haven’t signed up to any new plan with Telstra.  I see that some providers quote different internet speeds, depending on your plan. Our existing contract was for “fastest possible” ADSL2+, so I’m assuming Telstra have rolled over the same “fastest possible” deal with the new NBN connection.

As a bonus, our “landline” home phone is a lot clearer now.  Despite trying many different ADSL filters, we used to always have noise on the line, now its crystal clear.


Update June 12;

I was able to negotiate a better deal with Telsta to get faster NBN speeds.
Read more on this blog post… 

NBN Connection Kit (FTTN)

Telstra NBN Connection Kit, new modem and phone
Telstra NBN Connection Kit (modem & wifi phone)
NBN street node, Pakenham

NBN “node”

The National Broadband Network (NBN) has arrived in Pakenham, it may not be the fibre to the home (FTTH) concept of the former Labor government (which we weren’t going to see until closer to 2020) but it is here, in “nodes”.  The NBN model the Liberal government is giving us only takes the fibre internet connection to boxes, known as a “node” strategically placed around the neighborhood.  The connection from the node to everyone’s homes uses last century tech (that was only ever meant to carry phone calls), yep, good old fashion copper wires.  This broadband model is known as Fibre to the Node (FTTN), it’s inferior to FTTH, but quicker and cheaper to roll out across the country. For the end user it means your front yard doesn’t need to be dug up and there’s no box to be installed in your garage, but your internet connection wont be as fast.

Telstra wrote to me a few weeks ago to say it was coming and then emailed last week to say they had sent me a connection kit.  The correspondence from Telstra said all we had to do, was disconnect our existing ADSL modem and unplug any existing landline phones, then simply plug in the new “Gateway Max” wi-fi modem.  The new “T-Voice” phone only needs power, and connects via wi-fi.

Label on rear of Telstra NBN modem
Warning sticker on the back of the Telstra Gateway NBN router

All the documentation from Telstra made it very clear that connecting the new “Gateway” modem would “…trigger and authorise Telstra to arrange for your home to be switched to the NBN.”  I’m more than happy to get a better and faster internet (and so are my YouTube watching kids), so I hooked everything up last Friday.  While waiting to be switched over to the NBN, the Gateway modem will use ADSL to provide internet access, however it’s noticeably slower than the ADSL of my old Netgear modem, but I can handle that for a few days before being connected to the faster network.

Telstra NBN blurb

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen over the weekend, so this week I reached out to Telstra via Twitter to ask how long I’d be waiting to be switched over from ADSL to NBN.  The social media team asked me to connect to their chat-help service, who intern connected me to someone from the NBN team.

After confirming my account details, address, date-of-birth, etc, etc… this Telstra NBN expert said there was no NBN connection order on my account, no record of any letter or email sent to me and no record of a modem and phone connection kit being sent out.  This guy didn’t believe me, even after reading the documentation, word for word to him, he asked me to take the letter to a Telstra store for them to look at.  I told him that was ridiculous and offered to email him a copy, but he then tried to tell me he didn’t have an email address, yeah right!

Mr Telstra did say he could raise an NBN connection order for my account if I choose a new broadband plan.  I said no and read to him again the correspondence that said “…there’ll be no change to your monthly bill, plan type or contract period…”

At that point I found a sentence in the letter saying it would take between one to three weeks to be switched over to the NBN after setting up the connection kit.  Now I’ve found the answer to my “how long” question I told they guy on the phone how disappointed I was that Telstra could not find anything related to NBN associated with my account, and then wished him a good night.

With my area of Pakenham only going “live” on the NBN this week, I cant help but wonder how many families around here have hooked up their connection kit and are now wondering when things will speed up.  It will be interesting to see what happens over the next one to three weeks.


Update: Sat 28 May

Going by the Facebook post started by Berwick-Packenham Gazette newspaper, Pakenham residents aren’t overly impressed with Telstra or the NBN.  Despite Telstra promoting that NBN is available in the area, nobody is saying they’ve been connected yet.

I called into the Pakenham Telstra store today, just to see if they could shed any light on when I could be expected to be switched over from ADSL to NBN FTTN.  I spoke to a nice guy in the store who said nothing will happen until there’s an order placed on my account. Even when I told him the information sent to us said all we needed to do was plug in the new modem, he said “no, that wouldn’t happen” and that he would need to place an order for us.  However, when he looked up my account he saw the NBN switch over order was already on my account, so apparently plugging in the new modem had worked, scheduling my broadband to be switched over to NBN on 7th June at 2PM.  As he was looking up my account I brought up the picture on my phone of the label on the back of the new modem which warns;

Connecting this modem to your telephone wall socket will trigger and authorise Telstra to arrange for your home to be switched to the NBN...

Connecting this modem to your telephone wall socket will trigger and authorise Telstra to arrange for your home to be switched to the NBN

He asked for a copy so he could chase up with his boss why store staff don’t know about this. As we chatted more, he explained that this automatic switch over is another example of a growing trend of cutting out the retail franchises and their ability to earn a commission from new contract sales.

It seems Telstra may be dealing with some internal politics and communication issues, but at least I now have a NBN switch over date; 7th June at 2PM.


Update: Tuesday June 7th

A week and a half later we’ve been switched over to the NBN.  There’s been a modest improvement to our internet download speed, and a huge increase to upload speeds.  Our home “landline” phone is a lot clearer now too!

See this blog post for more…


Update June 12;

I was able to negotiate a better deal with Telsta to get faster NBN speeds.
Read more on this blog post… 

Tree on car

Way back in 2001, not long after buying our first PC, I experimented with online publishing.  I’d bought some computer magazines to learn about that Windows 98 beige box and came across an article about  The site allowed you to create your very own web page, with a primitive drag and drop interface, for free.  Wow, I could create my own page on the internet, how exciting!

I started dreaming about what I could do with my own web page (like I still do with the sites I publish now), but first I had to learn by experimenting.  I needed some photos, so I scanned pictures I had from when a tree landed on my wife’s car a few years earlier (yes, I had to scan photos because we didn’t even have a digital camera at that stage (that came in 2003).  A few hours later I’d made a web page called “Tree On Car”.

I’d forgotten all about my Tree On Car page, until I recently came across an old link on my very first Blogger blog.  The service still exists (competing with the likes of Squarespace and Wix), but my page had been disabled.  I decided to have a look at the Internet Wayback Machine, a site that archives web pages for future reference, to see if I could find anything.

The Wayback Machine didn’t have the Tree-On-Car website archived, but it did have the images.  I’m not sure why the photos were archived, but not the site, but that’s okay because those scanned photos were lost a couple of computers ago.

I think it’s pretty amazing when some hunting around on the internet can find things thought long lost!

By the way, we try not to park under trees these days!