The National Broadband Network's (NBN) free full fibre upgrade rollout to the superior fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology is well underway in Australia, but what does that mean for you as a consumer?
The quick answer is faster download speeds at home, brought on by upgraded fibre infrastructure. Sounds groovy, but how do you go about taking advantage of the NBN fibre upgrade? Allow us to explain all.
What is the NBN fibre upgrade program?
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In an update published in October 2022, the NBN announced that a further 1.5 million homes and businesses would have their technology upgraded from fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) to the much faster FTTP, a change made possible by a AU$2.4 billion investment from the Federal Government.
NBN Co had previously earmarked 2 million premises around the country to also receive an NBN upgrade from FTTN to FTTP, commenting at the time that: “By the end of 2023, up to 8 million premises in total will be eligible to access NBN Home Ultrafast, offering wholesale download speeds of 500Mbps to close to 1Gbps.”
More recently, in July 2023, the NBN said a further two million Australian households were now eligible to take advantage of the free upgrade and get connected to 100Mbps NBN plans or higher.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re currently on an FTTN or fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) NBN connection type then you might be eligible for an upgrade. If you’re not sure, you can either check the details of your NBN plan or head to the NBN Co website and enter your address.
And if you are, you could be 12 to 18 months away from incredibly fast download speeds.
How to upgrade your NBN for free
- Check you're in an eligible suburb
- Order an NBN 100 plan or higher
- Wait for the upgrade to occur
If you’ve performed a check to find out which NBN connection type you have (both FTTN and FTTC connections are eligible), and the NBN has announced that you’re in an area that is due for the FTTP upgrade, then there are a few things you need to do as a customer in order to be upgraded.
First, you will need to place an order for an NBN plan that offers speeds of 100Mbps or higher (check out our roundup of the best NBN 100 plans for some inspiration). This is because slower plans don't require fibre to function at their full potential, so if you elect to receive the free FTTP upgrade, then you're expected to sign up to a plan that can take advantage of it.
Check out our complete guide to NBN speeds for more information.
Based on the NBN’s wording, your premises will only receive an FTTP upgrade if you order a new NBN plan through a participating NBN provider. A full list of such providers can be found on the NBN website.
Following the order of your new plan, all you need to do is sit and wait for the FTTP upgrade to occur. You will remain on your current NBN plan until an NBN technician visits your property to perform the upgrade.
However, you will need to ensure that you remember to cancel your current NBN plan before transferring over to the new FTTP plan. Since most NBN plans work on a no-contract basis, you can usually elect a day to have your service closed down as opposed to having to give 30 days notice.
What suburbs are getting the FTTP NBN fibre upgrade?
The NBN has released a list of suburbs around Australia that are connected to the FTTN network and which have been selected to be upgraded to FTTP. There are far too many to list on this page (which is great news) but you can find a full list broken up by state on the NBN's website. The list of eligible suburbs is correct as of July 27, 2023.
As for those on FTTC connections, the NBN says the upgrade work for this type is almost complete, and it claims that "most homes and businesses on the FTTC network will have the opportunity to connect to full fibre via FTTP by the end of 2023."
How to upgrade your NBN at a cost
If your premises isn’t yet in the suburbs selected for the free NBN FTTP upgrade but you’re desperate to get those sweet, sweet 100Mbps+ download speeds, you are still able to apply to pay for an upgrade. This can be done through what the NBN calls the Technology Choice Program.
At the time of writing, the NBN says it is currently not accepting applications for Group Switch (you and other properties in your area share the cost of a mass upgrade) or Area Switch (an entire suburb receives an upgrade with one person acting as a representative). It is, however, still accepting applications for “some single premises.”
The NBN says the reason that payment is required in such examples is because the work would be “additional to NBN’s rollout activity.”
The total cost of an upgrade to FTTP NBN will vary from property to property and be influenced by a number of factors, with the location of your property and how easy it is for a technician to access chief among these. The NBN also adds that it is currently not accepting applications for “properties considered to be complex,” i.e. those that require a manual assessment.
If you want to find out how much it will cost to upgrade your FTTC or FTTN connection to FTTP, you can enter your details on the NBN’s website. These upgrades will usually cost a few thousand dollars at a minimum, but can even surpass AU$10,000 in some instances. There is no longer a fee to request a quote, however, and you’ll only pay once you’ve signed a contract agreeing to the upgrade works.
Unfortunately, if you can’t already connect to the NBN because you are one of those that rely on NBN fixed-wireless or satellite internet services you won’t be able to even pay for a fixed-line NBN connection.
Should I upgrade my NBN?
As our demands for how we use the internet continue to increase — such as wanting to stream 4K video, carry out more video calls (especially since the advent of the global pandemic) or wanting our social media feeds to update as fast as possible — so has our need for faster internet.
But the NBN you actually need is better determined by the number of people living in your household and what you need the internet for. If you live by yourself, for example, then one of the best NBN plans for singles should suffice. These are nbn 50M plans with a maximum download speed of 50Mbps. This NBN speed tier is served by FTTN and FTTC connections.
If you live in a household with five or more people and several devices connected to the internet, such as TVs, laptops, tablets and smart home devices, then you definitely stand to benefit from a NBN 100 plan, NBN 250 plan or even an Ultrafast NBN 1000 plan. If you are currently on an FTTN or FTTC connection, you may already find that your service struggles to keep up with your demands.
This can be especially true for FTTN connection types in particular, as the distance of your property from the distribution node can affect the real world speeds you can achieve. This is because copper wiring carries the data signal from the node to your property and the greater the distance the copper wiring has to travel, the more susceptible it is to interference and drop outs.
So unless you are absolutely desperate for superfast NBN speeds we’d recommend waiting until the free NBN upgrade comes to your suburb, rather than paying a large sum of money to have it done quicker.
Any other options?
If you feel your current NBN plan doesn’t quite cut it in the speed stakes, there are still a few things you can do in an attempt to increase it.
Upgrade your current NBN plan
To begin with, you can look into upgrading your plan to the fastest possible speed supported by your connection type. Despite being due an upgrade to FTTP, both FTTN and FTTC connections are still theoretically capable of achieving 100Mbps download speeds. Of the two, you’re more likely to achieve this on FTTC because of the shorter distance between the premises and the distribution point.
If you’re currently on an NBN 25 or NBN 50 plan, it’s highly likely that you can upgrade to an NBN 100 plan. While you may find you don’t achieve the full 100Mbps download speeds, particularly during the busy evening hours, there is still a good chance that you will achieve speeds faster-than-50Mbps.
If you’re unsure if this is possible, you can look out for NBN providers that offer free trials such as Tangerine. With such a free trial, you can then test out a service to see how it performs in your day-to-day life. If for whatever reason it doesn't quite cut the mustard for you, you’re free to leave with no harm done.
Upgrade your equipment
If you’re already on a fast NBN plan but not getting the speeds that you expect around your home, you can look into upgrading your equipment such as your router. Although, it is worth remembering that your router can’t work miracles as it relies on a strong signal coming into it from your internet service provider (ISP) to then send around your home.
If you find you’re getting a strong signal in a room close to where the router is positioned but a much weaker signal in other rooms of the house, you may want to look into investing in a mesh router system. A mesh Wi-Fi router system creates more points of connectivity around your home so that your devices will always be close to a strong Wi-Fi signal rather than having to connect to one main router through multiple walls.