Home Telecoms & NBN Our ‘woeful FTTN NBN’: an open user letter
Our ‘woeful FTTN NBN’: an open user letter Featured

Last night in a Senate Estimates hearing, former ALP Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy grilled nbn CEO Bill Morrow about numerous complaints that offices of various MPs had received about the poor performance of users’ FttN NBN services.

According to Senator Conroy, more than 60 complaints from the still relatively small number of FttN users had recently been received, with more complaints coming in each day.

Morrow tried valiantly to deflect the criticism by saying that all of the complaints had been addressed and in not one of the instances was the poor performance related to the FttN technology but rather the lack of adequate provisioning by the respective ISPs.

iTWire has received a letter from one such user which we have reprinted in full below. It is important to note that we are not singling Optus out because, as Senator Conroy pointed out in Senate Estimates last night, complaints have been received from users of all ISPs. Both Optus and nbn have been asked to respond. Responses from both nbn and Optus are included at the end of this article.

I'm writing because I believe I have story that is/will effect a lot of Australians and I'm hoping iTWire will help raise awareness to this issue and in doing so, help get this problem fixed.

I'm contacting you about my recently activated FTTN NBN 100/40 mbps connection I have with Optus.

When the service first went live, I thought I'd been wrong in decrying the axing of the FTTP approach in favour of the FTTN “solution”. I was seeing ping (latency) times of 12-13ms, download speeds of around 85 mbps and upload speeds of around 30 mbps, life was good, until I had the audacity to try and use my connection when I wanted i.e. when I was at home after work or on the weekend.

During “peak times” pings are on average sitting between 130 ms to 160 ms with download speeds on average being less than 4 mbps, while upload speeds hover around 10 mbps. From my own observations peak times are from 4pm to 1am (9hrs) on weekdays and 9am to 1 am (16 hrs) on weekends!

As you can imagine, gaming, streaming, emailing, downloading or generally trying to browse the internet is at best painful, at worst downright impossible. It makes me pine for my ADSL2+ connection (something I never thought I'd say) with a strong, consistent 20 ms ping, 12 mbps download and 0.6 mbps upload.

When I certified the problem with the service wasn't my equipment, I rang Optus and ran the gauntlet with their “tech support”, waiting hours to speak to someone, only to be transferred to another line, being told to switch my modem off and on, being told my modem router is probably part of the problem (it's a Netgear D7800), to appease them I used their woeful Sagemcom piece of BS and replicated the same issues.

Only after calling back multiple times and arguing about getting an inconsistent service, I was told over the phone that Optus is aware of congestion at the node during peak times and was given a vague assurance that “equipment has being ordered to fix this, but there is no estimated time frame for the fix”. Basically dusting their hands of the problem.

I'm by no means a networking expert (I'd most likely consider myself slightly more knowledgeable than a novice), however, from what I've read on Whirlpool and other websites discussing FTTN, it would seem that these nodes are suffering from a backhaul bottleneck.

Too little bandwidth to support its subscriber base. My node, 2Ham-02-05, is meant to be usable by 135 subscribers, I'd wager at the moment, there'd only be a handful of us that have an active service on the node and this is the “service” we have at the moment, I'd hate to think what sub dial up speeds I'll be looking at within 18 months.

I understand the Optus doesn't own the equipment that my service runs over and that they are NBN's customer, not me, but surely I'm not the only one to report this to Optus or the only retail customer to report this issue to their RSP.

As NBN's customer, Optus surely would have some way to inform NBN of problems and work with NBN to get them fixed, otherwise, we'll end up with same problem we had with ADSL and Telstra, i.e “you're connected to the network, I know your connection is horrible, what else do you want, we don't own the network?”

If at all possible, I'd like to see if iTWire would raise this issue in public to at least embarrass those responsible into action to fix the broken mess that FTTN is.

Turnbull is likely to call an early election this year, I hope Labor slam the hell out of him over this MTM debacle. I also hope media organisations make the dichotomy of Turnbull very plain, he wants to be the high tech Prime Minister, but he only wants to pay for a Commodore 64.

I've written to Minister Fifield, Shadow Minister Clare and My Local Member Sharon Claydon, ACCC and TIO about the problems I and other users are facing with FTTN during “peak times”, all who have yet to reply.

What good is high speed broadband, if you can't use it when you want?

Speed during peak period

Speed during off-peak period

Response from nbn

- We want all consumers to have the great experience they expect of the nbn network.

- We take any report of poor experience seriously, particularly since our network checks are showing all systems working as they should in the Hunter region.

- We’ve had direct conversations with retail service providers today regarding these reports.  

- We are also following up to ensure all nbn network specs are being followed by retailers across equipment, software updates, modems and network set up.


Response from Optus

- There are a number of factors that affect network performance including the type of network connection; the type of modem being used; distance from the network exchange, which affects how far data has to travel; and the number of people using the network in an area or household at the one time.

- Optus thanks our customers for bringing the issue to our attention. We are working to provide additional capacity to Optus NBN customers in affected areas of Newcastle. This work is scheduled for completion in March.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.


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