Why NBN Co’s Free Fibre Upgrade Program Is a Win for Everybody

Why NBN Co’s Free Fibre Upgrade Program Is a Win for Everybody

NBN is on a speed upgrade roll as of late. Over the past few years, the company responsible for managing the network has been busy bumping Fibre to the Node (FTTN) and Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) connections, which make up the majority of NBN fibre across Australia, to Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), the fastest fixed-line connection type you can currently get in the country. It’s a free upgrade program NBN offers that costs the homeowner nothing, as long as you order a required speed-boosted plan from your provider.

But that’s the kicker, right? Free? I’ve spoken to numerous people about this program who didn’t even know it existed and were immediately caught off-guard by the lack of needing to spend anything on getting fibre installed. Except, again, the requirement to get a speed-boosted plan post-upgraded. Surely paying for the cable and the technician is covered somewhere.

The truth is that it comes from NBN Co, and the company is happy to do it, though perhaps, there is a need to, as clearly as possible, get the message out there to more people. Gizmodo Australia exclusively spoke with the head of customer strategy and innovation at NBN Co, Doctor Robert Joyce, about the program, to demystify the process.

Behind the scenes

A lot of people get caught up with how often these upgrades happen. After all, the initial rollout certainly caught many homeowners off-guard, with technicians turning up at doorsteps, and now it’s time for another upgrade. Well, the answer is quite clear, according to Joyce.

“Fibre is the future,” Joyce said. “Once we get that [fibre] in the ground to your house, that’s your connectivity sorted for the next 10, 15, 50 years. The only thing that we’ll change is maybe the modem that you put on the end of it.”

nbn upgrade
Doctor Robert Joyce at the NBN Co’s Discovery Centre. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

What’s the NBN getting out of this?

But why is the NBN rolling out a free upgrade? Well, it’s about making things cheaper for the NBN in the long run, and when you consider easily damaged FTTN and FTTC pits that service multiple homes, you can understand why.

“Fibre [FTTP] is about 10 times more reliable than FTTN [and FTTC],” Joyce explained.

“If we do fibre to the node, then we have to translate the bits [of internet information] from fibre to copper, and that needs an amplifier, [and] that needs power in the pit.

“Guess what? If that pit floods, pop goes the amplifier.”

If you’ve experienced outages after any wet weather, you’re sometimes waiting a week for an approved technician to come out and resolve the issue. If you upgrade to fibre, that isn’t a problem anymore, which is good for you, but it also means that the NBN isn’t paying for constant repairs.

Joyce likened it to a utility, like electricity or gas, and wants it to be offered with similar reliability. “We want to see a future where we don’t have glitches in the internet, we want it to be 99.9999 per cent reliable,” he said.

Left: a thin, fibre-based wire servicing an FTTP address. Right: a thin copper wire servicing FTTC or FTTN. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

How do you get the free NBN upgrade?

Firstly, check you’re eligible for the upgrade. You can do this on the NBN website. Currently, only FTTN and FTTC homes (serviced from node-to-home via copper) are eligible. You’ll need to order an NBN 100, 250, or 1000 plan if upgrading from FTTN, or NBN 250 or NBN 1000 if upgrading from FTTC. These plans are all currently undergoing reviews to get their speeds significantly buffed.

Then, by speaking to your service provider (for example, Aussie Broadband, Telstra, Superloop, or Tangerine), you can book an appointment to get the fibre upgrade. This may be possible via the website, via email, or over the phone.

The service provider will then need to come to your house to do a pre-installation inspection, to make sure they can action the upgrade without any fuss.

After that comes the day of installation, where the equipment is fitted at your property. This takes about three to four hours, according to Joyce.

“Basically, we will bring that full fibre lead-in under the ground, across your property, to a point on the wall, and then test it, it connect it, and make sure it’s working before the technician leaves your premises,” he said.

“It certainly costs us some money, but it doesn’t cost you any money. These are free upgrades, so as long as you’re moving to a 100mb plan or above, it’s free to you.”

Joyce also recommended a Wi-Fi 6-enabled router to best take advantage of these new speeds in your home.

Will you be upgrading?

Image: Disney/Gizmodo Australia

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.