The cost of installing a high-speed fibre-optic cable is $30 million in Australia and more than $2 billion worldwide.
But the rollout of the network has taken a big hit, with a failure of one of the cables last week sparking a series of protests and calls for the project to be cancelled.
A $25m upgrade is now expected to begin this month.
News.org.au spoke to experts and consumers about the project, its challenges and its prospects for the future.
Network upgrades are a long-term investment and need to be funded over a long period of time and it is often done in stages, said Mark Johnson, chief executive of Telstra.
“You don’t need to put the entire network in place overnight, but the longer the project is going on the more expensive it is going to be,” he said.
“The network upgrades are going to cost more money than the cable, so we have to be very careful to keep costs low and the cost of the investment low.”
The NBN rollout is expected to take about two years to complete, with construction starting in 2020 and finishing in 2022.
This is a significant upgrade to the existing network and it has a much shorter duration to run than the NBN is capable of providing, said Mr Johnson.
Mr Johnson said the project would need to have “many tens of millions of dollars” of investment to meet the network’s long-run needs, but it was the most expensive cable upgrade in Australia’s history.
“[The network] has an estimated cost of $30 billion to $40 billion,” he told News.au.
The cost of building a fibre-to-the-premises network in Australia is $11 billion.
A large chunk of the cost will come from the existing copper network, which is in dire need of repair.
That cost is expected rise to about $40 million, according to NBN Co’s projections.
However, NBN Co is optimistic that the cable upgrade can still provide an affordable alternative for consumers in the near term.
While the cable has been installed, the NBN Co board is reviewing the cable replacement plans and the replacement costs, which have been estimated to be between $30 and $50 million.
Fibre to the premises network upgrade will deliver faster internet speeds than fibre-coaxial networks in other parts of the world, said NBN Co chief executive Ziggy Switkowski.
Currently, the main reason why people are using fibre-based broadband is to access the internet, he said, but there are other reasons why it is important to get connected to the internet.
One of those reasons is affordability.
An upgrade to fibre to the premise network could bring $2,000 per year in savings to consumers and businesses, he told news.com:au.
That’s because, unlike the NBN, fibre-cable networks can be built cheaper.
For the past 10 years, fibre optic networks have been cheaper than copper networks, but this is expected change in 2018.
NBN Co estimates the cost to install fibre to a premises network could be about $10 to $20 per megabit.
As NBN Co makes changes to its network design and network infrastructure, more and more people are switching to fibre, and they will need to upgrade their connections, Mr Switowski said.
“In 10 years time we will be a very different place,” he added.
“People will have much greater access to the Internet and it will be much cheaper to have fibre to your home and to your business than copper.”