Developments around The NBN’s Network terminator Device (NTD)

The NTD is also sometimes referred to as the Optical Network Terminal (ONT). It sits at the end of the FttH network – it is the connection to premises. From here the various services can be delivered to the end-users.

There was quite a bit of discussion in the early days regarding the preferable position of this device. NBN Co prefers to put the ONT on the outside of the house. The company has no relationship with the consumer and will try to avoid this at all costs. As a wholesale provider NBN Co wishes to be invisible. It will not have the resources to deal with consumers to arrange appointments for access to customer premises, for instance.

On the other hand, the customers prefer to have it on the inside of house, as it is there that they will use it.

However, as the NBN moved ahead the issue became less sensitive. Another development was that the cost of NTDs which go inside the house has come down significantly in price and they are now cheaper than an outside device.

As things have developed most current NTD installations have so far been inside, with a smaller number being installed on the outside of the residence. While there is no hard policy on this it looks as though this situation will continue, with the majority of the NTD being installed inside the house.

In the case of multi-dwelling buildings NBN Co will always install the NTD within each unit.

One of the more problematic issues here is how one goes about bringing electric power to the device if it is placed on the outside of the building. An interesting solution could involve cooperation with the electricity company – it could provide power and at the same time use the NBN rollout to support its own smart meter rollout. But to date little progress has been made on a more collaborative approach.

The reason most devices are inside is linked to the fact that providing customer access from the outside NTD to the interior of a dwelling presents a more serious problem. There are technical issues, such as drilling through walls. Experience has taught NBN Co that in most cases the NTD can simply be installed by using the existing Telstra copper cable link into the house.

By 2013 it now looks as though, despite the early concerns, the issue has largely been resolved, and that cooperation between the customer, NBN Co and the RSP is delivering the best possible outcome for all those involved.

Interesting as well is the fact that customer access is provided on demand. Nearly everyone contacted by NBN Co opts to have the NTD; this despite early scaremongering, by politicians in particular. This positive result is very much in line with similar developments elsewhere in the world – if the NTD is provided free of charge the take-up rate is above 95%. NBN Co, together with the RSPs, developed an excellent information and education campaign that is launched as soon as work begins in a neighbourhood. Even people who do not see the need for the NBN service as such do recognise the value, if not of the service itself, then in terms of real estate value.

Paul Budde

See also: Australia – National Broadband Network – Infrastructure Plans and Contracts

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