HFC NBN - Any Experience?


Throughout all of the “NBN” era, it wasn’t until very recently (ie last year?) that it came to my attention that land line phones (as they have traditionally been called; phones that are “always on”) would become a thing of the past once the NBN arrived.

Having parents in their later years of life, this does concern me. Of my parents, and father in law, only my mum has a mobile phone that you can trust to be charged and remotely near her person.

Knowing that a power failure means no phones is pretty disastrous!

From this article… apparently telco’s have battery back up phones available (no doubt for a lot more money). This at least alleviates the issue, however adds the need for regular checking of the back up battery - something else to check like Smoke Alarms…


A few points on this (to the best of my understanding). Although note that this article is from 2016 so this isn’t a new question.

The original FTTP solution specced a UPS for the NTD (basically the box inside your house). That little box provided you with a standard “copper” port to plug your basic old phone into as well as an ethernet port for you to plug your router into. In theory the battery would allow your phone to keep on working during a blackout.


Is your phone cordless?
Because even if the NTD has power, you’re still screwed if you don’t have fixed handset plugged in.

How do you get your phone service?
Many providers provision a phone line not over the “phone port” of the NTD but through a plug in the back of the router. Effectively it’s a little VOIP system built into the router. This saves them having to pay NBN for a voice port as well as a data port.
The UPS on the NTD was only designed for the NTD itself, not other things (like the router that may be providing the phone port). Unless you have your own UPS you’re screwed here anyway.
NOTE: This is the same approach historically used for Cable connections from Optus, rather than pay to use the Telstra copper they run the phone out the back of their cable modems (I believe Telstra also do this in some places too).

Are you on FTTN?
This one I’m not 100% sure of. Can yous till use the “normal” copper for phones or does it use the same approach as above running the phone out of the modem?
In any case, the same limitations apply when it comes to cordless phones.
It’s worth noting that there are also batteries needed in the FTTN cabinets. These local nodes have batteries which are supposedly good for 6 - 8 hours of uptime (in short your local UPS will likely go flat first).

Personally, I’m on cable and do have a UPS, but it’s only good for maybe an hour… although to be fair that’s after shutting the server down after 20 minutes and while keeping the whole network up (APs and network switch). If I moved everything but the modem and phone onto it, it would run considerably longer… but then I don’t have a ‘land line’ phone plugged in anymore anyway :stuck_out_tongue:

The vast majority of the time there isn’t any power outages that last very long so a small and cheap UPS would work just fine in providing piece of mind. To go seriously beyond that would start to get far far more expensive looking at something like the Tesla power wall and solar panels…

Plan B might be to replace the land line with a mobile phone (which may be cheaper anyway given most plans are now unlimited calling). Then add in some hardware to make her feel more comfortable if needed. Something with a decent dock for it to live on like the old cordless phone does should make it reasonably acceptable. The beauty of this is that it has it’s own built in UPS!

You can get cordless phones with Bluetooth that can connect to your mobile for a more “traditional” house phone look and feel. (although you then need to power it).

You can even buy cabled handsets like this to make it really retro :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m sure it’s possible to all but hide the fact it’s a mobile if it makes her too uncomfortable.


I’m on FTTN (VDSL). You get a shiny new router (if you don’t already have one that supports the VDSL specifications). You plug your phone into your router, and everything is supposed to be Apple’s and peaches.

There is some kind of option that they run you through and do a check to see whether you need some kind of UPS for your phone system for back to base, and health/emergency services for elderly people.

What I worry about is how good that battery is anyhow and how many days we can go without power before everything shuts down. This is particularly problematic in residential aged care and with back to base security systems.

I don’t think this matter is well thought out. The original plan was to use fibre (which is self powered) for this very purpose. Now we’re stuck in this shit of a situation I railed against way back in 2013 because I knew this was exactly how it would play out.

If the fact that street corner cabinets aren’t bad enough, and the fact you get about 500metres worth of usable line (as opposed to somewhere between 20/50km of usable fibre) The issue particularly surrounding elderly people and security issues should warrant concern.

As to the argument that the scheme is a white elephant? The entire phone network was going to need replacement at some point in the future and even now the supposedly more “cost effective” version has had budget blowouts and is overrun by delays.

Shit I live in a city with 350,000 people coast to coast in Queensland. They couldn’t work out how to get us onto Turnbull’s NBN until 2017. It wasn’t any faster in terms of time to implementation. I’ve gone from 4mbit to 24mbit though and so I’ll credit that. However, about 10km up the road everyone in a green fields estate is getting the real thing.

This does not make sense.


I think you need to check about the self powered nature of fibre. The end point always needed battery backup for the VIOP phone. This is an issue where extended outages are likely eg cyclone country. Some people will do the right thing and keep checking their battery status, others will not, like little old ladies. And then of course there is the likelihood of even a good battery not lasting long enough where power loss could be up to three weeks like after STC Debbie earlier this year. I was at a disaster planning meeting last year where NBNco gave a presentation. They basically advised that NQ people should continue to pay for a landline connection on top of the NBN to ensure Comms.


But from what I understood was happening (at least in some areas?), traditional landlines could no longer be used when the NBN arrived…? So you couldn’t keep it if you wanted to.

And yes, whilst I never really went through a cyclone proper despite 17 years living in Darwin, battery backups will only last so long when the power is gone… though I expect it would only be fairly serious emergencies when that would happen. Bad cyclones tend to take out overhead lines anyway, so phone services were never reliable in those instances. Equally, underground systems tended to die due to all the water, no matter how weather proof they tried to make them.


I’m finding that a lot of people don’t realise that NBN was not meant to be only about rolling out broadband for “everyone”, but it was also a massive civil works project. There were going to be thousands of people employed to deploy the network, everything from digging trenches to pulling and terminating fibres to installing equipment in homes.

The costs of the FTTH rollout has been exaggerated in that cost also included the UPS that went with the CPE equipment. Simon Hackett who was briefly on the NBN board was advocating opening up supply of the CPE equipment and letting customers buy their own. The Alcatel(?) unit that was mandated was grossly over priced due to the fact it was single supplier.

I don’t see what all the fuss about FTTC is, after all, if a fibre has been pulled to within about 10m of my house, what is the extra cost of a trench to the house from the street? They need to do that anyway to get power out to the FTTC device. Not many houses will have a conduit with the phone line in it, most of that is direct buried. It’s pretty much all face saving at the moment, any admission that a multi-technology mix is sub-optimal is an admission of failure, even if the cost of running FTTH has come down to within cents of FTTN/HFC/FTTC.


Yes, the traditional landline will be disabled within about 18 months of NBN becoming active in an area.


IMO, the cost of the NBN has no relevance. The existing “internet” infrastructure in Australia is/was disgraceful, and we not only need to bring it up to date, but future proof it as much as is possible. Not just so I can see porn quicker, but for businesses that rely on it every second of the day (such as the one that employs myself and 40-odd other people), for health services, education, and - well - basically everything in our modern life.

I can see that fibre to the home at this point is perhaps overkill - just so long as everything is in place for that feature to be added at a later date (which I gather is the case with the current version of the NBN…?). I am myself now enjoying steaming television services such as Netflix and ABC’s online services/etc. For the average home user, I think that should be the current yard-stick. If your connection cannot maintain HD streaming, then the NBN has failed. If it can handle that, then it should also be up to general consumption of information, and also the purchase of goods - thus feeding the beast.

The fact the NBN has helped with employment across the nation is great as a side effect. Frankly I’d much rather see it remain a publicly owned service rather than being privitised… but then I guess I’m old fashioned in that regard.


In my area you have whatever it is, 12 or 18months and the POTS goes down and if you’re not on the NBN you get nothing for a land line until you do sign up with an NBN Co. provider.

As to the inherent issue of fibre optics, IT IS self powered, like our copper lines used to be, it goes to a mains… oh I don’t know, anywhere…

You’re right, people don’t check their battery in their cordless handset and something happens, you lose all connectivity.

I would suggest in the case of little old ladies you get them a Nokia handset that does nothing but calls and text messages and tell them to use that to call you or your health services provider in case of an emergency.

I realise fully the nation building project that was the NBN. Its a redirect of resources to put people on the ground building stuff while we go through the great big stuff up that is the GFC we are still feeling the effects of.

It’s also a bit like other major infrastructure projects such as the single gauge railway, and the Australia wide highway that shares one single road number. These things must be done at some point to move a nation forward.

The short sightedness and bloody mindedness of the Turnbull/Abbott government when it came to wreaking the NBN because thats what they were elected to do astounds me. I am sure even Malcolm Turnbull on his good days away from politics would self admit how much of a stuff up it is given his insight into IT.

The problem is that he is a spineless coward in public.


Frankly I think Turnbull would be better working on Labor’s side… I get the feeling in a lot of ways he would be more at ease morally than leading the party he’s stuck with.


Except for Satellite or Fixed Wireless NBN areas


The power issue is huge, especially for HFC…

FTTP: generators at the FAN and battery backup at home
FTTC: generators at the FAN and UPS for reverse power (user pays) at home.
FTTN: generators at FAN, batteries in node and UPS (user pays) at home
Fixed Wireless: Cell Towers don’t have backup, but copper not disconnected, so that is backup
Satellite: all ground stations have generators. UPS (user pays) at home

HFC…nothing. None of the RF nodes and amps have any battery backup or generators. If the grid goes down, or your section, no UPS or anything at home will help.

The SA blackout showed cell towers loosing their battery after 2-3hrs…they cannot be relied upon!


Battery backup is optional on FTTP. It’s up to the RSP to request it be installed for the user, whether that be done at time of initial installation, or afterwards.
Personally, I don’t want or need a landline, and so I’m quite happy that my FTTP install doesn’t have a battery backup unit that I would be responsible for maintaining.


We didn’t need or request a battery back up with our FTTN connection either. If the VOIP phone goes down such is life. Generally as far as we are concerned the cell tower is not on the same power line as our home power so if one goes down the other does not.

Unless we have a South Australia styled crisis where generators that could have been used were switched off, I’m not going to find myself in a predicament where I can’t reach the outside world in some way.

FTTP is the option I was talking about. Power generated at the cable itself, just like there is a degree of voltage that is run through our copper lines themselves. This would have been the Rudd NBN and its what people are getting in new housing estates.


I’ve got the same things in my area. I’m with bigpond cable and I do rrmber there being something in the paperwork that I signed about being migrated to HFC NBN if/when it becomes available in my locality. :roll_eyes:


Well, here’s an update to my experience.

On Sunday evening we had some pretty severe storms roll through Brisbane that brought a lot of lightning activity. Thank’s to Mal’s decision to run a conductive cable into our houses (rather than a non-conductive medium), it appears I’ve now got

  • a dead ethernet port on the Arris cable modem
  • two dead ports on the Huawei router, WAN and LAN1
  • two dead ports on my Cisco Meraki switch, the one that was connected to the Huawei and the one beside it

I’ve already spent an hour on the phone to the ISP (iiNet, they are pretty good in my experience), and they are sending a replacement router.

He started me on the typical level 1 questions until I pointed out that I take care of a 1,200 switch 40,000 port network as my day job. I guess they have to stick to a script, because I asked them to send another Arris, but that will need to go over to NBN Co. to sort out.


I just got an email from iiNet advising that if/when the NBN arrives in my neighbourhood, I can stay on the cable internet as it provides a comparable service to the NBN.

So that at least is a bit more affirmative than the phone conversation with their tech support a few weeks ago.

@zbaron - Bugger! Lucky it didn’t take out any computers as well - though I guess these days most people connect wirelessly…


Currently on Cable internet with Bigpond, moving to Telstra NBN HFC on a deal for $92.93 where I get 100/40 with 1TB. They arrive on Monday to install the hardware and I already got the modem sent. We’ll see how it pans out. Should be interesting to say the least. :smiley:

$92.93 because of paying for a private listing in the White Pages, bit harsh, but the price to pay for some privacy.


I can’t wait until that’s in my area. Plex Cloud on my mind


Believe me when I write this: I was absolutely shitscared when a large part of my suburb was announced to get FTTN, later seeing that my area is getting HFC was a huge relief.