Tim's Blog

Information, Technology, Security, and other stuff.

Lessons Learnt Dealing with the NBN FTTP and Rental Properties

Published 2014-09-03

When I moved into Northern Canberra, I was pleased to find that the NBN (National Broadband Network) was enabled in my area, giving me Fiber-To-The-Premises. Coming from a property that had ADSL2+ connectivity that was 4.8km from the exchange (too far for some providers to connect as the signal gets so poor), this sounded amazing. I could get 100Gbps downstream! Unheard of in Australia.

So it was simply a matter of requesting NBNCo to come and connect the house I was in (with permission from the property manager of course). They do this connection for free (well, you don't actually get a choice. They cut the copper lines after a period of time).

Now, the house I'm in is a townhouse, and the garage is actually a separate building. I figured this wouldn't be an issue, as the "office" of the house has an RJ11 port in it, so I figured the lines come all the way up to the house, not the garage.

Boy, was I wrong.

So it turns out that the line that the copper cable running up to the house is actually very complicated. It has loads of turns in it for it to run from the street conduit on the garage, through the garage and then up to the house. These turns worked out to be too tight for Fiber Optic cabling to be run through. Great.

Our real problems came about from the NBNCo technician not being aware of this problem, and simply mounting the termination box to the house (like I asked him to). When he logged a job for another technician to come out and pull the Fiber up to the house, the second technician realised that wasn't possible and mounted a second box in the garage and pulled the fiber to there instead.

After some more techs came out, we came to conclusion that the only possibility would be to have the NBN terminated in the garage unless I wanted to pay to get the backyard ripped up to run new lines through. Not really possible in a rental property.

It's worth noting that each time a callout is made with NBNCo, we had a 2 week wait time. All in all it took 8 weeks to get from requesting the service to it going live. The lack of communication for the jobs is startling as well. Guys would come out, think that everything was fine, not do anything, and then leave.

So I gave up and had it terminated in the garage (leaving two holes drilled into the wall in the house, which have now been fixed). Only problem, how could I get connectivity in the house? I first tried sticking the wireless router in the garage against the window facing the house. This worked, but the signal was shocking, and non-existent on the far side of the house.

I contemplated manually running some Cat6 across the yard, but that seemed a bit too hard and I'd have to buy a fair bit of cabling.

Digging around on Google, I ended up finding some Ethernet over Powerline devices. The concept worried me a bit, as I'd never seen it before. Also, people on forums were talking about how it won't work if the powerlines aren't on the same breaker. This got me concerned with the Garage being a separate building and having a different fuse to the other lines, but I took the plunge and got some of these. I figured I could sell them if they didn't work for nearly the price I paid.

Amazingly, they work really well. They have a limit of 500Mbps, but I can't possibly reach that as the NBN only goes up to 100Mbps. I have the NBN box in my garage, with ethernet going into one of the devices plugged into the powerpoints in there, then I have the second device in my office, which connects to my wireless router.

You can also be assured that nobody can tap into the comms, as the traffic is encrypted by the device. Supposedly nearby houses on the same "phase" can possibly see the traffic if it's in the clear.

I actually like them so much I got a second pair (set on a different channel, so there's no cross-talk) and they run a line between my router in the office to my TV, giving the devices there Ethernet connectivity and full speed access to my server.

I did actually find one pair of the devices started dropping out every now and again for no reason. To fix it, I just mixed the devices up and re-paired them. That seemed to fix it, as they've been stable now for 6+ months.

##NBN I've been using the NBN now for over a year, and I've got to say it's one of the best things to happen in Australia.

I originally had a 100Mbps plan, but I found I really wasn't utilising it, so I dropped down to 50Mbps instead and chose to get more data (1TB). The pricing worked out to be same, and now I don't even have to think about how much data I use, as I'll never hit the limit.

The killer factor for me with the NBN is not that I can play online games with 10ms ping or that I can watch HD YouTube videos without buffering. Those don't add value. What I really enjoy is that I can remotely access my devices from anywhere and I can obtain any software, tools and information that I need in my research and work and I don't have to wait hours or days to get them. It's such a relief to not have my workflows broken by having to set things like Visual Studio to download overnight.

When I was in South Korea last I was able to RDP across my VPN into my home computer, enabling me to remote work while I was over there without the risk of taking personal data over with me. The latency was almost non-existent with the connections.

I'm now in the process of moving house, and I made sure to only look at places with NBN connectivity. A nice feature is that the NBN termination box is usually visible from just driving past a property, so we were able to cut the properties that didn't already have it installed. I'm not keen on going through the connection saga again.

The really sad part is how rollout has somewhat ground to a halt with the change in Government and the re-evaluation going on. I'm not qualified to really make any useful comments on it, but I can see in my workplace how the FTTP NBN would really enable our small company to be more productive in terms of offering better redundancy capabilities, faster operations for staff and better connectivity with our international partners. Instead for now we will always engineer less-desirable solutions.