How Does NBN Get To Me?

A lot of people have asked me questions like ‘What is NBN?’ or ‘How is it different’? Many people have had no exposure to the NBN so I thought I’d take the chance to briefly show how NBN gets to my house. I’ll speak in very general terms and avoid jargon as much as I can, and define a few commonly used terms.

For starters, NBN stands for ‘National Broadband Network’ – and without going into it’s entire poor history of how it got to where it is today, there’s a few different types of NBN:

Fixed Line

Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) – This is what I have, and it’s a fibre cable run from the exchange (as in, telephone exchange) all the way to your house. It’s considered the best generally.
Fibre To The Node (FTTN) – This is another fibre cable run, but goes to a node (a cabinet somewhere in your neighbourhood, closer than the exchange), and from there goes to copper to your house (i.e. your phone line).
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) Cable – This is the older cable that Telstra and Optus use for Internet as well as Pay TV.


Fixed Wireless – This invovles an antenna being placed on your premises, which gets signal from a base station. Speeds are much lower (max 25mbit down) than Fixed Line options, with higher latency.
Satellite – A dish is used rather than an antenna, and your data goes via a Satellite floating above the earth. Similar download speeds to Fixed Wireless but latency should be worse.

Personally I am lucky enough to have the pinnacle of NBN options – FTTP. A delicate thread of glass runs it’s way from the exchange all the way to the inside of my house.

Since I can’t get into the exchange easily, the journey of my fibre stars running along the telephone poles (many places have it underground instead) to the one outside my house:

20150822_151438Look at all those beautiful wires!

From there, just like the old copper cable, the fibre gets strung across to the corner of the roof. The highly professional ‘metal hook with weight thingy’ keeps the cable in place:

20150822_151417Wires everywhere

From the corner of the roof, the fibre is fed down into the NBN utility box (aka Premises Connection Device – PCD). Black cable in, white cable out. What magic happens in the middle? I don’t know as I couldn’t find anything online, but it most likely draws the line between the in-premise side of the fibre, and the off-premise fibre run.

20150822_151405Upside-down NBNCo PCD

From the PCD, the cable is then run into the roof cavity to get to the NBN Connection box. You’ll need a reasonable amount of wall space, and some ventilation room for this one:

20150813_124251Left: NBN Connection box. Right: Power Supply with Battery Backup (optional)

Taking the cover off of the NBN Connection box, you can see the little blue fibre cable being fed from the white shielding, looped around and fed into the Network Termination Device. Fibre is very delicate, with the added bonus of being able to blind yourself if you look into the end:

20150813_124315NBN Connection box with cover taken off

Here’s the below view of the Network Termination Device (NTD) inside the NBN Connection box. The first two ports on the left are voice ports, for a standard telephone service. Next up are the 4 broadband ports – my blue cable feeds off to a normal ADSL type router, that works with a WAN connection (such as NBN). Beyond that is the white power cable and of course the fibre cable. Note that you can’t just plug in to any port, the ISP will enable a particular port for you to use (or in my case from Internode, they’ll tell you ‘UNI-D 2’ on the paperwork but actually have ‘UNI-D 1’ as the active port!). You can have up to 4 seperate internet connections from this, but they’ll be on 4 separate bills.

20150813_124420Lower view of the NTD

Lastly, the Power Supply with Battery Backup. This is optional, but didn’t cost me anything extra. If there’s a power outage, this will give me 12 hours or so of power to the NTD. Handy just in case (keep in mind you’ll need some sort of power for your own router too for internet):

20150813_124331Big warning on the Battery Backup

With all this in place, and a high speed internet plan, this is the sort of speed I now get:

Faster than 98% of AU! :)

Without getting too political, if you don’t have FTTP NBN, you probably won’t get it in future, instead it’ll most likely be FTTN.

For details, check out http://www.nbnco.com.au/ as they’ve got a lot of good resources around the NBN.

Happy Internetting everyone!