Sometimes all you need is a person with a bright idea to solve a problem that has been affecting many. Earlier this year one of the NAT engineers, Darryl Dux, was idling at some traffic lights, and noticed a box mounted on top of the traffic light cabinet and had a light bulb moment. This doesn’t sound too amazing, but this observation is going to bring fixed broadband to many homes and businesses that could never have it before.

Telstra has approximately 5000 street side cabinets across Australia, mainly in housing estates that were developed in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s, that provide telecommunications services to the streets surrounding them. As they were installed before the internet was an everyday accessory, they weren’t designed to deliver broadband access.

Typically each cabinet can support up to 480 telephone services. Some we’ve been able to fit with ADSL technology, however only 120 services could be supported by some cabinets, and some cabinets could not support ADSL at all.

Darryl’s bright idea was to install ADSL2+ equipment on top of the existing street side cabinets but it took a lot more than this to turn this into reality. Telstra and Alcatel-Lucent engineers had to solve complex equipment cooling and cabinet upgrade challenges to make this process quick, economic and have minimal impact on existing customers. We even went as far as building the first prototypes inside an industrial toolbox to test the system end to end, this sped up our engineering processes and took up to 12 months off the time to get this solution up and running.

Dubbed a ‘Top Hat’ this new equipment means we’re now able to deliver ADSL2+ fixed broadband to all homes and businesses that are connected to an upgraded street side cabinet. It sounds simple now that we’ve come up with the idea, but will make a huge change to people who will be able to access video streaming, digital business and connected home services for the first time over a fixed broadband connection.

Telstra will start rolling out Top Hats in November, to approximately 2000 street side cabinets and expect the project to be completed within 18 months. At the same time we’ll be replacing the connection from the street side cabinet to Telstra’s core network with Gigabit Ethernet fibre. This sounds very technical, but in reality means that customers will get the best speeds possible from their ADSL2+ service, and will experience less contention even when many users are on their fixed broadband at one time.

In addition to having fixed broadband it means many customers will also now be able to take advantage of Telstra’s popular home phone bundles, making it a very economical way to access high speed broadband. As Telstra installs Top Hats into local areas, we’ll be letting the local communities know. You can see if your area is scheduled for an upgrade in the next few months by visiting

To see how Darryl’s idea came to life, watch this video.

Top Hats Updates Spreadsheet