In a previous post, we explained how network packets get from your computer to a web server or other web locations. Switches, routers, cables are all important and necessary to get from A to B. Assuming you have a good internet connection you can surf the web, stream movies and perhaps even work remotely. But what is a good internet connection, and what can I expect?

This post is intended to take some of the technical mysteries out of the internet that we get in Australia and help you choose the best solution for you. HFC, FTTN, FTTC, Fixed Wireless, they’re all examples of the ways you can connect to the internet.

But first…

Contention Ratio

Contention ration can be one of the biggest impacts on your internet experience. At its simplest, it’s the amount of bandwidth the Internet Service Provider (ISP) has sold and what they actually have. Similar to the way an airline will often oversell the seats on a plane, in the knowledge that some passengers won’t turn up, an ISP will buy or provision a certain amount of bandwidth (often called backhaul) but sell more than they have.

As most internet connections lie idle during the day, or even at night, it’s not economical or even possible to have enough bandwidth for everyone to consume their provisioned connection at once. It’s the reason why certain streaming events can cause wholesale internet slowdowns (Game of Thrones on Foxtel streaming services was a case in point).

An ISP will overprovision to a point and closely monitor their usage and adjust and buy more if required. As this can sometimes take days or weeks, network performance for an entire ISP can suffer as a result. Always check the ISP’s website for the expected speed during peak hours.


ADSL is a copper-based technology, deployed in the early 2000s and is gradually being replaced with NBN services. ADSL comes in 2-speed types, depending on the technology used.

ADSL1 is 8mbps down and 384kbps up. This is enough for web surfing, email, YouTube in HD, Netflix etc..

ADSL2+ is capable of 24mbps down and 1mbps up. This is the fastest ADSL technology and if peak speeds are attainable, satisfactory for Netflix HD, YouTube, web surfing and having multiple computers using the internet at once.

ADSL, being a copper-based technology is extremely dependant on the distance of the premise from the box that contains the internet equipment. Distances of several kilometres are possible with acceptable but declining performance. Another determining factor is the quality of the copper lines both inside and outside the house. Previous repairs or joins can have a negative impact on performance, and these can be hard to trace and fix.

ADSL is being replaced with NBN services and the rollout should be completed within the next couple of years.


The NBN is best described as a concept rather than a specific technology. The initial plan was for high-speed optical fibre connections to be run to every domestic and most business premises. Providing an optical fibre connection to every property was an expensive delivery model and with a change of government, a different approach was taken.

The NBN Multi-Technology Mix aimed to provide a faster, less expensive rollout whilst delivering the same overall aim of better internet connections for all of Australia.

Each technology has its benefits and downsides. What you are able to have provided is normally decided by the NBN, though there are ways to have connections upgraded.


Network to your house or office. Optical fibre technology can deliver speeds in the several gigabits per second range. At release, NBN offered a maximum speed tier of 100/40 (100mbps down and 40mbps up). Since release, speeds of 1000mbps are available. Optical fibre technology is improving, and relatively simple upgrades will be able to enhance those speeds further.

Inside the premise, the fibre is terminated in a small box called the NTD or NTU (network termination device/unit). There will be 4 internet connections and 2 voice connections available from the one device. A single premise can, in theory, have multiple 100/40 connections that can be aggregated into one network connection or as a failover should one ISP fail.


Fibre to the Node utilises the existing copper network and enhances it with special network boxes by the side of the road called Nodes and convert the signal to a service that can be delivered by copper. It uses a technology called VDSL2 and can deliver speeds of just over 100mbps down. As VDSL2 signals are delivered over copper, the signal degrades rapidly with distance. Whereas an ADSL2 signal could sometimes provide reasonable service for several km’s, VDSL2 signals tend to degrade in less than 1km. The Nodes are therefore plentiful and sometimes there may be several in close proximity if there are a large number of premises to service.

The condition of the copper is important for network service and quality. As the signal is such high frequency, any poor connections can result in poor performance.

The service is presented as a telephone wall socket in the premise. A modem is connected to the telephone port and this provides internet service.


Fibre to the Building is similar to FTTN, except that the node is normally placed somewhere in the building. This means that an existing building can have a high-speed internet connection delivered to apartments or tenancies with very little additional work. As the fibre is normally run into the building directly, the limit on performance is normally the quality of the copper inside the building. Speed tiers of 100/40 are normally available.

The connection is presented as a wall socket that a modem connects to, as in an FTTN installation.

Fixed Wireless

Fixed Wireless is the solution chosen for rural or regional areas where it was not possible to deliver either copper or fibre solutions. Using technology similar to a normal mobile phone system, NBN can provide high-speed internet access to more premises than would have been possible with the other fixed technologies.

A special transmission tower is erected in a location with multiple antennas attached. Each premise that needs to connect to the service needs to have a clear line of sight to the tower and connects via a device or aerial placed on the roof of the building. The building can be up to 14km from the tower.

The service is presented as a wall-mounted NTD that a network router is connected to via an ethernet cable.

NBN will limit connections to the service in order to ensure all customers can get a satisfactory experience.

Speed tiers of 25/5 are normally available.


Hybrid Fibre Coaxial was the technology used by Telstra and Optus to deliver phone and television services and then high-speed internet, prior to the NBN.

NBN have purchased and upgraded the Telstra HFC network and this has resulted in speed tiers of 100/40 being available.

The Optus HFC network was largely decommissioned after purchase and replaced with other NBN technologies.

A special modem is required to convert the signal for connection to the internet.


Fibre to the Curb is similar to FTTN, however, in this case, the node is placed in a small pit, very close to your property. Copper is run from the pit to your house where it then provides the internet service. By having such short copper lines, speed and performance should remain constant over time.

NBN provides a special box that connects to the wall socket in your home that you then plug your router or Wi-Fi gateway into.

NBN Satellite

There are some locations in Australia where none of the above solutions is available or practical. In these cases, NBN provides internet service via several satellites. Satellites are placed in geostationary orbit, thousands of km’s above the earth’s surface and relay internet signals from your home to the destination.

Satellite signals are impacted by vegetation, building obstacles and weather. Speed tiers are variable and the download limits lower than for any of the other services. Due to the distance that the signal has to travel, latency (the time it takes for a network packet to be sent and received) is greatly increased. As a result, certain applications like gaming where latency is critical are not viable. Streaming video services such as Netflix can also consume multiples Gigabytes of data per hour and may exhaust the download limits available on the plans.

The service is presented as an NTD in the premises and delivered via a satellite dish on the roof.


Australia is relatively well placed to deal with an increasingly connected world. Good internet services are available at reasonable rates and the NBN model allows business and individuals to select a service provider that works best for them. Understanding the technologies and how they deliver connectivity to you is important. A good Managed Service Provider will help you navigate these options and provide the best advice and solutions for your business.

Talk to us today to find out which option is right for your business.

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