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Tuesday 7 April 2020

Switching to the NBN - Fibre To The Node (FTTN) - what you want to know that no one seems to tell you

I'm on ADSL2+ and receive a flyer in the mail saying NBN is available in your area. So I pop on over to the NBN website, put in m address details and sure enough it says im ready to choose a provider. But I have a few questions first:
  • What is FTTN?
  • Can I use my existing modem?
  • Which provider should I choose?
  • What plan should I choose?
  • Will my existing home phone still work?

I hunted around for these answers and while i'm sure the exist, it was difficult to find. There is plenty of links which explain FTTN and NBN Co does a pretty good job of explaining it so ill leave it to them for the defnition, but essentally its VDSL technology which has been around for quite some time. 

If its been around for some time will my existing modem work you might ask, well if your existing modem/router is VDSL compatible then there is a good chance it will. I would recommend looking up the specifications of your modem and finding out what VDSL protocols it supports. My trusty old Fritzbox 7390 said it supported ITU G993.2 but i wasnt sure if that was enough. Various ISP's I was considering using listed their modems provided so after looking up their specifications they listed a range of protocols so who knows if it would work. Also most ISPs provide limited assistance when it comes to modems which are not provided by them. As it turns out NBN FTTN uses/supports VDSL2 17a G.Vector (ITU G.933.5) as per the below screenshot. It may support other VDSL2 protocols but this is what worked for me.

Obviously the above information was after I chose an NBN plan, I ended up going with my existing provider for simplicity and they had a good offer on at the time though whistleout and whirlpool always seem to have good broadband information. I'd suggest checking there if you are considering switching providers. Though to choose a different provider you will probably need to know what you are shopping for.

Given the techie that I am, before switching I did some analysis on my existing ADSL2 connection. As per the below screenshot you can see I was getting ~19.2mbit/s down and ~1mbit/s up on ADSL2+ which all things considering is pretty good! Most standard NBN FTTN plans are around 25mbits down and 5mbits up so I would be hoping the NBN would cost about the same if the speeds are similar. Turns out I signed up for a 25mbits down / 4mbits up for the same price. So a bit faster on the uplink which helps for snappiness and so far making the switch.

I did some research on my existing monthy usage from my ISP portal and worked out I was using just on average somewhere between 100 - 200GB per month. I ended up going for a similar unlimited plan since i thought my data usage my increase on the NBN but so far it has remained about the same. Perhaps if I chose a faster speed my usage might have gone up, but will my existing line support a faster speed? How fast of a plan could I go?

A couple of points, firstly when switching from ADSL, dont forget to take out all of the line filters you might be using! And secondly like me if you have oldschool yellow 2 pair cabling through your house its very likely to affect your reliability and throughput. Initially I was experiencing regular errors/timeouts on my connection which turned out to be the old cabling (tested it straight from the incoming street connection) and had an attainable throughput of about 50mbit/20mbit.

After switching out with cat 6 cabling (about a 25m run) I had an attainable throughput of about 100mbit down / 50 mbit up. Given this is the case it wouldnt be worth signing up for any plans above this speed but atleast I know my current speed limits! Also no more dropouts :)

So lastly would my existing phone work? Most plans give you the free option of a land line. Given I had an old analog one on the kitchen wall it was probably easier to try and make it work rather than patching the hole, so I signed up for a free land line.

These lines generally use a SIP VOIP connection which your ISP can provide settings for. My Fritzbox supported 2 analog lines and using the old yellow 2 pair wiring with some basic configuration I was able to setup my old existing analog phone to work with VOIP.

Hopefully this post has given you some more information I wasn't able to find before making the NBN switch - and might extend the life of your old modem.


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