Millions of Australians will get access to faster broadband speeds in a $4.5 billion upgrade package, but more than one million will miss out.
Millions of Australians will get access to faster broadband speeds in a $4.5 billion upgrade package, but more than one million will miss out.

Winners and losers: What NBN changes will mean for you

More than one million Australian households will miss out on high-speed broadband upgrades under the NBN's $4.5 billion upgrade package.

And those who do qualify for the speed surge will have to wait until June next year for construction to begin.

Details of NBN Co's billion-dollar boost began to emerge as the company launched its 2021 Corporate Plan and after Communications Minister Paul Fletcher unveiled a policy backflip to upgrade parts of the national network and connect more households and businesses to gigabit-per-second speeds.

Telecommunications analysts welcomed the NBN Co's adoption of more fibre in the network on Wednesday, but warned important specifics about the plan had yet to be revealed, including the areas of Australia that would receive upgrades first, and whether the highest download speeds would price some users out of the market.

NBN CEO Stephen Rue says the focus has been on completing the build of the network. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
NBN CEO Stephen Rue says the focus has been on completing the build of the network. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the $4.5 billion upgrade to the NBN so far was "the next logical step" in its development, and would boost download speeds for millions of users from a minimum of 25 megabits per second to as high as 1000 mbps within three years.

"It means that by 2023, 75 per cent of all fixed-line premises in Australia will be able to order ultra fast broadband speeds up to one gigabit per second," Mr Fletcher said.

Most of the upgrade package would fund a speed boost for customers using fibre-to-the-node technology; replacing copper lines with fibre optic cables in a reversal of the plan introduced by then communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2013.

NBN Co will spend $400 million upgrading hardware used to connect fibre-to-the-kerb users.
NBN Co will spend $400 million upgrading hardware used to connect fibre-to-the-kerb users.

NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue told News Corp that growing demand for greater downloads and speeds during the coronavirus pandemic "accelerated" plans to upgrade the NBN, which was due for completion in June.

"Our focus has been on completing the build of the network," he said.

"It (has become) apparent to us that now is the time to we need to start investing to ensure that by 2023 we have as many people as we can able to order those high-speed tiers."

But not every NBN user will receive access to the network's top download speeds under the upgrade package.

The plan will see $2.9 billion spent installing fibre connections in suburban streets, passing two million homes currently served by FTTN connections.

But approximately 3.1 million households and businesses currently use the technology, meaning more than one million will miss out on the upgrade.

"We will continue to assess demand and to assess the extent to which people to which choose higher speeds," Mr Rue said of the shortfall.

NBN Co will also spend $400 million upgrading hardware used to connect fibre-to-the-kerb users and may replace some leads to some homes, Mr Rue said, while households connected using HFC (pay-TV cable) would receive software upgrades to boost speeds at a cost of $100 million.

Mr Rue said the company would reveal which areas will receive upgrades early next year, and chief operations officer Kathrine Dyer said new fibre services could be available by June 2021.

"We expect the first premises to be able to order high-speed services via (fibre) connections around the middle to the end of next year," she said.

"We estimate that civil construction work will require ramping up across all states."

Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said he welcomed the NBN Co's fibre upgrade, even if it would only improve part of the network.

But he warned the price of gigabit broadband plans could still be a sticking point for users, and both NBN Co and the Government should set an accessible wholesale price for the plans.

"It's great to see the infrastructure but is it going to become affordable?" he said.

"If this is not affordable for everyone and that means Australia climbing up the (speed rankings) will be slower."

Mr Budde said modelling showed an upgrade to a full fibre network for Australia could have cost as much as $16 billion.

Originally published as Winners and losers: What NBN changes will mean for you


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