30 Jul 2011

NBN Update: What your business needs to know

The NBN’s nine-and-a-half-year roll-out is underway. NBN Co has signed an $11 billion deal with Telstra to access its infrastructure, and, just this month, the network’s satellite service for Australians in remote locations was switched on, and the first ISP released its consumer pricing.

The NBN is a complex beast, and at Brennan IT we’re expecting a fair degree of misunderstanding about its design and features in the business world, at least initially.

We’ll have more to say as the network progresses, but right now two important things businesses need to know about the NBN are:

The NBN is consumer focused

The NBN’s current priority is to deliver consumer services. The network’s goal is to deliver ‘high speed’ broadband to as many premises as possible, at a minimum speed of 12 M. But in the locations that the rollout has reached, the levels of speed that businesses typically require are not yet available.

Also unavailable are many of the features that business connectivity requires. Indeed, ‘high speed business services’ (such as seamless inter-office connectivity and support for video conferencing) aren’t scheduled for implementation until what NBN Co calls Release Three, with ‘enterprise services’ scheduled for Release Four, and ‘enhanced reliability’ for mission critical services not due until Release Five.

By contrast, ‘emerging entertainment capability’ will be delivered in Release Two.

Unfortunately, there is no timetable governing when these business services will come on-line.

Not all connections will be equal

When business-grade connectivity does arrive, however, it will be important for businesses to realise that – while all NBN connections will access the same underlying physical network – the services on offer from each provider will be different.

The old mantra that you get what you pay for will apply. That’s because, where the fibre ‘tails’ that will reach your premises are identical in every case, the networks of the providers they connect to won’t be.

In practice, the way the NBN will work is by having large ‘aggregators’ (at the moment Telstra, Optus, Nextgen, AAPT and Platform Networks) who will essentially act as wholesalers.

Other companies, including IT vendors, will step in as retailers, and it’s here that most product differentiation will occur. It’s the retailers’ networks that will determine things like guaranteed service levels and contention ratios, and it will be up to retailers to offer features such as traffic prioritisation, SIP trunking, fail over and levels of capacity and redundancy.

For this reason, businesses who choose NBN connectivity will need to sign-on with providers who they believe will deliver reliable and well-supported services.

When business grade services finally do arrive, examining only connection speed and cost won’t be to comparing apples with apples.