May 2018 Main Meeting Report
Tonight, the NBN Co.
dropped by for a chat about Australia’s National Broadband Network.
gave a comprehensive update on the roll out and what we can expect when the NBN cables hit your street.
Amber started the night with the question “How do you use your land line?”. Most of the answers were, for phone calls and internet connection. This gave her a direction for the night’s discussion. So to start, we had a look at who was involved in the roll out of the National Broadband Network, or NBN.
This slide describes the parties involved in the NBN, starting with NBN Co., a Government business enterprise. It was formed in 2009 and the shareholders are the Government ministers responsible for the role-out, currently the Minister for Communications and the Arts, and the Minister for Finance.
While there had been regulation of phone services, there was no regulation for the provision of broadband services. This all changed with the creation of the NBN Co. The purpose of the NBN Co. is to “build, operate and maintain Australia’s first broadband access network”. The other players include the contractors and sub-contractors who actually build the network, as Amber said, “the people who are putting the box on your wall”. On any given day there are 30,000 people building the network. They are the NBN Co.’s ‘delivery partners’. Then, most important to us the customer, are the retail service providers, or RSPs.
This led to our first question, “How does the government justify forcing every Australian on to a more expensive plan”. Amber as an employee of the NBN was not able to comment on government policy, however she did say that the one “bipartisan” policy was the requirement to deliver equal access to all Australians, so at the end of the rollout every premise would be able to access the NBN. Before the NBN the ADSL network was patchy and restricted by port numbers in the exchanges. If you were in a bad area it was bad luck. Access to the NBN means a level playing field for all customers, with a range of providers offering plans of varying price points. The NBN mandate is to see that every household has access to at least 25Mb download and 5Mb upload speeds with fixed lines to have at least 50Mbs. The government position is made clear in its 2016 ‘Statement of Expectations’ signed off by the then Minister for Communications Malcom Turnbull.
The letter emphasizes the need for a base level of delivery speed regardless of the type of technology used to deliver that speed, to quote.
“The Government is committed to completing the network and ensuring that all Australians have access to very fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices, and at least cost to taxpayers. The Government expects the network will provide peak wholesale download data rates (and proportionate upload rates) of at least 25 megabits per second to all premises, and at least 50 megabits per second to 90 per cent of fixed line premises as soon as possible. nbn should ensure that its wholesale services enable retail service providers to supply services that meet the needs of end users.”
So by way of an answer to the question, Amber talked about the relationship between the NBN Co., the wholesaler, and the Retailers who supply us with a phone and internet service.
She pointed out that each retailer has a variety of plans and the ‘benefit of the NBN roll out is there is now a lot of choice and competition’. Retailers are now providing both low cost packages with no frills, while others have various value add-ons. Just some of the items mentioned included unlimited calls to their service centres. Some have onshore call centres. There are providers who like to specialise in - say – ‘business only services’ while some may be only selling to fixed or land line customers. What Amber really emphasised was the wealth of choice available.
During the installation phase there are at least two basic letters sent. The first is from the NBN Co. informing the resident that the NBN is commencing construction and that at some time in the future they will need access to the property to check lines and install the NBN box. When construction is completed in an area a second letter is sent telling us that we have 18 months to connect to an NBN plan at which time the existing phone line is cut off. On the back of this letter is a list of the all the providers of NBN services. Amber really pressed home the point that you have 18 months so shop around for the best plan for you so don’t feel pressured into a plan but research what works for you.
There was a question about cable services so Amber moved on to what happens to cable TV. Using the government guide lines to use existing infrastructure, if suitable, the NBN Co. had acquired some of Telstra’s and Optus’s Hybrid Fibre Cable (HFC). However, the NBN Co. suspended sales of services over the HFC cable after testing and customer and provider complaints indicated the need to do more work. The stop enabled NBN Co.to optimise the performance of the HFC. The halt has now been lifted and customers report a much higher speed rate.
Speaking about installation with the HFC or Fibre to the curb (FTTC), the NBN will place a box on the outside and, depending on need, will work with the provider to install a splitter which goes to your pay tv and the NBN connection box. Basically, the NBN will cover the instillation up to the first socket in your home. The rest of the instillation like secondary outlets and the modem is up to the provider you choose.
Amber moved on to tell us about speeds. NBN Co.is responsible for the wholesale network and the average top speeds the NBN delivered was around 70Mbs / 30Mbs in the first roll outs with averages now around 100Mbs / 40Mbs. The speed problems mainly come from your retail service provider or (RSP) and the capacity they purchased from the NBN. If they had not purchased sufficient capacity then the advertised speed would fall short. Also the congestion on the network in high demand period like the evening needed to be considered. This was the problem the ACCC dealt with and now we see the RSP advertising average speed rather than top speed. The NBN business model sees the RSP buying capacity and people paying more for higher capacity which would give a return on investment for the government.
After the break Amber looked at the other side of the NBN, phone calls. Remember when we used the phone line to make calls?
First thing to note is the NBN replaces the existing land line. That means you need to consider what you want to do about your existing phone line.
The NBN phone needs power. The old copper worked “as long as there was a charge at one end of the network”, the phone was alive, not with the NBN. It is powered at the exchange and in your home and if the power goes out the network will not work - be prepared. It is possible to have battery backups but the NBN Co. doesn’t install them. Here are the NBN Co. recommendations on what happens in a blackout.
With the NBN, voice calls are made over what is called VoIP or voice over the internet. Most providers bundle voice calls within the packages on sale. A quick check located at least two providers that offered voice only plans
In all, about 11 million homes across Australia will be connected. Amber spoke about the future. The company will exist after the rollout with an emphasis on continual upgrade. This will include the development of new access technologies like remote medical contacts.
While the NBN Co. had concentrated on the residential rollout as it nears completion it is looking to enterprise grade products. The NBN Co. has just announced a new Skymaster enterprise wholesale package and they are looking to create new wholesale packages to suit business enterprises.
This is a hybrid slide of the check list available for businesses going on to the NBN.
Tonight, we had four gift cards and a donation of Microsoft water bottles and a 5 device Norton Security package.