More than a million households and businesses, spread across 781 suburbs in every Australian state and territory, will have access to full-speed fibre broadband by the end of 2025 after NBN Co outlined next steps in its transition away from legacy copper.
Up to 58 per cent of the named suburbs are in regional areas – including 25 of the 93 towns named in Geoff Mack’s famous song ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’, ranging from Nambour and Maroochydore to Moree, Toowomba, Gunnedah, and Turramurra.
Residents in those and the other 756 named suburbs will be able to add their homes to the upgrade list by ordering one of NBN Co’s three highest speed tiers – which include 100Mbps NBN Home Fast, 250Mbps NBN Home Superfast, and 500Mbps to 1Gbps NBN Home Ultrafast services – when it is not supported by their current copper service.
“We are unlocking social and economic benefits across Australia by pushing fibre deeper into communities,” said NBN Co chief operating officer Kathrine Dyer as the new locations were announced.
Noting that data use on the NBN network has tripled in the past six years – and that “exponential growth is expected to continue as customer demands increase to meet new technology” – Dyer said upgrading more homes to fibre would be “good news for customers” and offer a better financial model than existing infrastructure.
The additional costs of maintaining and upgrading NBN Co’s copper network – an artefact of the Coalition Government’s multi technology mix (MTM) rollout strategy – have been flagged as problematic for many years, and were blamed in a recent analysis for burying the company’s financials in “unanticipated costs” that had left NBN Co with “poor prospects” of ever repaying its debts.
“Fibre,” Dyer said, “is inherently more capable of delivering faster upload and download speeds, is generally more reliable than copper connections, and reduces our ongoing maintenance and ordering costs.”
Making good on an election promise
All told, NBN Co expects to be able to deliver 500Mbps speeds to up to 10 million premises by the end of 2025 – a milestone that the Albanese Government has fast-tracked during its first year by investing $2.4 billion on fibre upgrades and forcing NBN Co to focus on upgrades rather than primping itself for private sale.
That cash injection promised to deliver fibre to 660,000 regional premises, bringing metropolitan speeds to regional areas that have struggled to participate in the digital age after years of being forced to beg, borrow, and steal broadband anywhere they could find it.
New suburbs in the latest allotment include Casey, Kingston, Monash, and Yarralumla (ACT); Blackheath, Dalmeny, Kurri Kurri, and Shortland (NSW); Apollo Bay, Horsham, Sorrento, and Venus Bay (Victoria); Bray Park, Dalby, Mareeba, and Roma (Qld); Braitling (NT); Blair Athol, Evanston Park, and Reynella (SA); Bertram, Kalamunda, and Two Rocks (WA); and Burnie, Huonville, and Penguin (Tasmania).
The choice of suburbs “has been determined based on NBN Co’s analysis of a range of factors including the likely take-up of higher speed tiers and the cost of the upgrade,” Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said during Parliament Question Time as the announcement was made.
“These are important in ensuring that the upgrades provide a commercial return to the company.”
Upgrading copper services to fibre was a cornerstone of Labor’s election tech policy, which was positioned as remedying the damage caused by years of purported mismanagement – including allegations the previous Coalition government had fudged the numbers to bury a $7.4 billion blowout, poured money into the pockets of executives and employees in a climate of pandemic austerity, and presided over multi billion-dollar losses even as broadband prices surged.
By refocusing the company on establishing full fibre connectivity as the baseline for most customers, Rowland said, “the Albanese Government’s fibre repair job is enabling the NBN to reach its full potential, and giving Australian families and small businesses access to the world-class broadband infrastructure they deserve.”
The remaining locations to be upgraded to fibre will be announced early next year.