The first high rise apartments have been connected to the national broadband network using the cheaper, multi-technology approach taken by the Coalition government.
Trials have begun in eight high rise Melbourne buildings of fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) technology that runs fibre optic cable to the basement, then uses existing copper telephone wires to connect individual apartments and offices.
The company building the network, NBN Co, has signed up service providers Telstra, Optus, iiNet and M2 for the three month trial.
NBN Co chief technology officer Gary McLaren said the trial would evaluate the construction, performance and customer experience of FTTB.
“A lot of it is the operational interworking of our equipment with the retail service provider,” Mr McLaren said.
Internet users taking part in the trial will need to obtain a new modem from their internet service provider.
Mr McLaren said FTTB technology used VDSL2 with vectoring equipment, so customers would need to upgrade from their ADSL modem.
“That’s the difference people will notice in their apartment or their office – there will be a change of that piece of equipment,” he said.
Pricing of internet plans and equipment is set by the retail service providers.
FTTB could eventually be used to connect about 12,000 buildings to the NBN, containing some one million apartments and offices.
The original NBN plan from the former Labor government proposed connecting high capacity fibre optic cable to every single premises in the country, including apartments.
The Coalition government changed the plan to include a mix of technologies that were slower but cheaper and faster to roll out, including technologies using existing copper networks.
Many apartment buildings have still received fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) links.
Mr McLaren said tests had shown FTTB could deliver download speeds of 100 Mbps and upload speeds of 40 Mbps.
He said the age of buildings was not a determining factor in whether FTTB or FTTP is used.
There will be up to 200 premises connected during the trial, which is taking place across eight buildings in the Melbourne suburbs of Carlton, Parkville and Brunswick.