The NBN, politics and what it all means for business
There’s been lots of talk about the National Broadband Network (NBN) as part of the recent election. The NBN that the Labor Government originally planned, and had already commenced implementing, is now being replaced with Liberals’ “NBN Lite””.
Australian’s current internet relies mostly on a copper network that is now a century old, with limited reach and bandwidth. Australia has never traditionally been at the forefront of global broadband rankings and we still have more dial-up internet connections than any other country in the OECD (other than New Zealand). The purpose of the NBN is to improve and modernise our communication networks, and to provide universal access to all homes, schools and workplaces around Australia.
Under Labor, this would have been accomplished by rolling out fibre-optic cable to the doorsteps of every premise, allowing 100Mbps internet speeds, and a future plan to offer up to 1GB. NBN itself is a wholesale service, meaning that NBN services will be provided by many of the current Telco providers we already deal with today. Pricing would be universal and monitored by the competition regulator.
The NBN is Australia’s largest ever infrastructure project.
The NBN is a publicly funded government project and operated network. This is not a traditional Liberal approach however it’s almost impossible to deflect without major costs and negative impressions of lacking vision and improvement. Instead, the Liberal government have opted for “NBN Lite”. The plan is to run fibre-optic cable to a “node” or “cabinet” installed on the street, and then to use the existing old Telstra copper network from the node to the premise.
“NBN Lite” is predicted to take less time and cost less money, however will offer maximum internet speeds of only 25Mpbs and no guaranteed upload speeds. The pricing vision is to promote competitiveness, allowing vendors to compete and even charge less than the cap in heavy markets.
In areas where there is lack of or deteriorating copper network, Liberal intend to run fibre-optic cable all the way to the premise. In regards to some regional and hard to reach areas, Liberal will rollout satellite or fixed wireless internet, in line with Labors original plan.
What the changed NBN will mean for business
Whether under Labor or Liberal, the NBN should offer better and standardised communication networks allowing Australian businesses to operate in a more integrated, highly connected fashion. It should change the way you do business, improve your productivity and give you better access to new markets. The NBN also makes Cloud Computing more achievable and efficient, offering higher internet speeds to stay connected to offices, staff, clients, customers, suppliers and systems from multiple locations. The result being more efficient use of your time, more sales, decreased transportation costs, less worry about your bandwidth and an enhanced customer experience.
The major gains will be for regional businesses who will now be on a level playing field with larger businesses in metro areas. This should foster a healthier business community and competitive landscape across Australia.
A disappointing end result
Whilst the NBN initiative is still going ahead, it’s disappointing for all Australians that we will end up with a diluted end result in “NBN Lite”. In cities we won’t see any noticeable change in performance since we already have mainstream access to similar speeds, meaning the NBN will deliver no real benefit to around 90% of our population and we will still be dependent on technology that’s almost 100 years old.
For a nation that needs to reduce our reliance on digging stuff out of the ground, the future doesn’t look so bright. It’s a shame we’ve missed this opportunity to put stuff in the ground which would make us significantly more competitive.