At long last, more and more Australians are going to have access to fibre based access to the NBN, and this seemed like as good an excuse than any to take a deep dive into how NBN’s GPON based fibre services are delivered to homes.
Let’s start in your local exchange where you’ll likely find a Nokia (Well, probably Alcatel-Lucent branded) 7210 SAS-R access aggregation switch, which is where NBN’s transmission network ends, and the access network begins.
It in turn spits out a 10 gig interface to feed the Optical Line Terminal (OLT), which provides the GPON services, each port on the OLT is split out and can feed 32 subscribers.
In NBN’s case, Nokia (Alcatel-Lucent) 7302, and rather than calling it an OLT, they call it a “FAN” or “Fibre Access Node” – Seemingly because they like the word node.
Each of the Nokia 7302s has at least one NGLT-A line card, which has 8 GPON ports. Each of the 8 ports on these cards can service 32 customers, and is fed by 2x 10Gbps uplinks to two 7210 SAS-R aggregation switches.
The chassis supports up to 16 cards, 8 ports each, 32 subs per port, giving us 4096 subscribers per FAN.
In some areas, FANs/OLTs aren’t located in an exchange but rather in a street cabinet, called a Temporary Fibre Access Node – Although it seems they’re very permanent.
In reality, each port on the OLT/FAN goes out Distribution Fibre Network or DFN which links the ports on the OLTs to a distribution cabinet in the street, known as as a Fibre Distribution Hub, or FDH.
If you look in FTTH areas, you’ll see the FDH cabinets.
The FDH is essentially a roadside optical distribution frame, used to cross connect cables from the Distribution Fibre Network (DFN) to the Local Fibre Network (LFN), and in a way, you can think of it as the GPON equivalent of a pillar, except this is where we have our optical splitters.
Remember when we were talking about the FAN/OLT how one port could serve 32 subscribers? We do that with a splitter, that takes one fibre from the DFN that runs to the FAN, and gives us 32 fibres we can could connect to an ONT onto to get service.
The FDH cabinets are made by Corning (OptiTect 576 fibre pad mounted cabinets) and you can see in the top right the Aqua cables go to the Distribution Fibre Network, and hanging below it on the right are the optical splitters themselves, which split the one fibre to the FAN into 32 fibres each on SC connectors.
These are then patched to the Local Fibre Network on the left hand side of the cabinet, where there’s up to 576 ports running across the suburb, and a “Parking” panel at the bottom where the unused ports from the splitter can be left until you patch the to the DFN ports above.
The FDH cabinets also offer “passthrough” allowing a fibre to from the FAN to be patched through to the DFN without passing through the GPON splitter, although I’m not clear if NBN uses this capability to deliver the NBN Business services.
But having each port in the FDH going to one home would be too simple; you’d have to bring 576 individually sheathed cables to the FDH and you’d lose too much flexibility in how the cable plant can be structured, so instead we’ve got a few more joints to go before we make it to your house.
From the FDH cabinet we go out into the Local Fibre Network, but NBN has two variants of LFN – LFN and Skinny LFN.
The traditional LFN uses high-density ribbon fibres, which offer a higher fibre count but is a bit tricker to splice/work with.
The Skinny LFN uses lower fibre count cables with stranded fibres, and is the current preferred option.
The original LFN cables are ribbon fibres and range from 72 to 288 fibre counts, but I believe 144 is the most common.
These LFN cables run down streets and close to homes, but not directly to lead in cables and customer houses.
These run to “Transition Closures” (Older NBN) or “Flexibility Joint Locations” (FJLs – Newer NBN)
While researching this I saw references to “Breakout Joint Locations” (BJLs) which are used in FTTC deployments, and are a Tenio B6 enclosure for 2x 12 Fibers and 4x 1 Fibers with a 1×4 splitter.
The FJLs are TE Systems’ (Now Commscope) Tenio range of fibre splice closures, and they’re use to splice the high fibre count cable from from the FDH cabinets into smaller 12 fibre count cables that run to multiple “Splitter Multi Ports” or “SMPs” in pits outside houses, and can contain splitters factory installed.
The splitters, referred to as “Multiports” or “SMPs” are Corning’s OptiSheath MultiPort Terminals, and they’re designed and laid out in such a way that the tech can activate a service, without needing to use a fusion splicer.
Due to the difficulty/cost in splicing fibre in pits for a service activation, NBNco opted to go from the FJL to the SMPs, where a field tech can just screw in a weatherproof fibre connector lead in to the customer’s premises.
During installation / activation callouts, the tech is assigned an SMP in the pit near the customer’s house, and a port on it. This in turn goes to the FJL and onto FDH cabinet as we just covered, but that patching/splicing for that is already done, so the tech doesn’t need to worry about that.
The tech just plugs in a pre-terminated lead in cable with a weatherproof fibre end, and screws it into the allocated port on the SMP, then hauls the other end of the lead in cable to the Premises Connection Device (Made by Madison or Tyco), located on the wall of the customer’s house.
The customer end of the lead in cable may be a pre terminated SC connector, or may get mechanically spliced onto a premade SC pigtail. In either case, they both terminate onto an SC male connector, which goes into an SC-SC female coupler inside the PCD.
Next is the customer’s internal wiring, again, preterm cable is used, to run between the PCD and the First Fibre Wall Outlet inside the house. This preterm cable join the lead in cable inside the PCD on the SC-SC female coupler, to join to the lead in.
Inside the house we have the “Network Termination Device” (NTD), which is a GPON ONT, is where the fibre from the street terminates and is turned into an Ethernet handoff to the customer. NBN has been through a few models of NTD, but the majority support 2x ATA ports for analog phones, and the option for an external battery backup unit to keep the device powered if mains power is lost.
Phew! That’s what I’ve been able to piece together from publicly available documentation, some of this may be out of date, and I can see there’s been several revisions to the LFN / DFN architectures over the years, if there’s anything I have incorrect here, please let me know!