NBN is ready for business – is business ready for the NBN?

CSC Consulting’s Mark Ochota advises you to factor the NBN into your telecommunications planning – and the time to start is now...

©iStock.com/kynny 

©iStock.com/kynny 

On a recent engagement it occurred to me that most of the clients who’ve engaged us to advise on telecommunications roadmaps and strategies for the next five years, are not at all sure what impact the national broadband network (NBN) is likely to have on their enterprise networks.

Certainly, we’ve read of micro-businesses – designers or website developers and the like – relocating to suburbs that were early recipients of the NBN in order to take advantage of the bandwidth. But how relevant is it to larger businesses or government organisations with industrial-strength WANs?

The fact is, while nbn - the company created by the Federal Government to build, wholesale and operate NBN – (and the media) have been focusing on the roll-out of services to consumers across the land, they are now ramping up for business grade service provision. Further, most of the existing telco services that large business and government networks rely on will be withdrawn – with the process completed in as little as three years in some areas. So, even if you didn’t think the NBN was a factor in your infrastructure planning, you may soon discover there’s not a choice.

The NBN for Business: Fast Facts

- nbn (the company) was established as a wholly-owned Commonwealth company in 2009 to design, build and operate Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN)

- As a wholesaler, nbn does not sell direct; you will be buying NBN services from your existing or another telco service provider

- As nbn brings new services on line, similar existing telco business services will be retired within 36 months

- In 2016 nbn plans to release more business focussed products including enhanced service levels

- As of 21st January 2016, the NBN had covered or passed 1,654,439 premises using the mixed technology wired network, wireless or satellite, with 769,316 of those premises activated

- For an instant update on the current reach and adoption of the NBN, weekly rollout metrics are published here

What’s the state of play for business?

One of the key reasons for creating the NBN was to reduce the disparity between telco services in capital cities and rural areas – so the NBN is further advanced in regional Australia than in many city areas already well serviced. This means that, if your enterprise network covers regional areas, you should be looking at what NBN services can do to enhance your bandwidth and coverage right now.

With all the political argy-bargy about fibre-to-the-node versus fibre-to the-premises, an important aspect of the NBN that’s perhaps got lost is the massive wireless and satellite coverage that has already been put in place. To date, nbn has commissioned its own satellite and planned the launch of another – so even greater capacity and bandwidth will be available in 2016. These ‘birds’ are by no means full; the NBN is offering opportunities for exponentially improving your communications to your most remote sites.

Some of our clients are now trialing the NBN wireless service as a way to connect their regional offices directly into their corporate WANs. They are enjoying substantial increases in performance at a fraction of the cost they are used to paying.

That said, the ability to establish direct connections between major centres is still a requirement – so even organisations operating only in state capitals will find their networks will eventually be heavily reliant on NBN services.

Business versus consumer service levels

On the NBN, business telco services will – in many cases – be delivered in the same way as consumer services. The SLAs required by business may well be possible on simple (and cheap) consumer services. One reservation I have is around performance; for example, will the Netflix Effect (Subscription Required) impact on your business – especially if your peak demand is not during business hours but rather in evenings or weekends? And how do you calibrate just how much it matters, if your telco costs are substantially lower than they are at present?

Larger organisations typically spend more on telco services than consumers do for two main reasons: Performance/SLAs and Symmetrical Services. But this distinction is losing its relevance for many. The questions to now consider when selecting a service are: am I running a hospital or electricity network – or just an office? Do I have other options for critical communication?

However, with the NBN and other advances in telecommunication services, SLAs (and real world network performance) for consumer services are now right up there, at least for non-critical business requirements. The way to beef resilience is – and always has been – through link redundancy. And how important is a symmetrical service when your upload speed is now well above your “old” download speed?

So what should you do NOW?

You have the ability to set the directions of NBN business services right now. nbn is keen to hear from business and government on what they need from it – publicly stating that it wants direct involvement to define the right products.

At this stage nbn is telling us they are not getting enough input, so it’s time to start thinking about what the retirement of your existing telco services will mean to your organisation, and start engaging to have some influence. While it would prefer that you address questions to your existing telco service provider, the nbn is increasingly open to direct input:

  • nbn is conducting formal processes with government and large business organisations to work with them in transitioning to the NBN
  • nbn has created a forum for businesses and government agencies to enable them to learn more and canvas their needs – to assist it in business service roadmap development as well as help these organisations with their own strategic planning

Meanwhile, you should be talking to your existing carriers on their stance – and how they plan to deliver your services as the NBN comes on line. Alternatively, or in addition, this radical reshaping of the Australian telecommunications landscape makes it the ideal time to get independent advice on how to plan your enterprise communications and ICT infrastructure for the next five years and beyond.

About the Author

Mark Ochota is Regional Director of CSC Consulting’s Adelaide practice. With specialist experience in telecommunications strategy, he has been delivering ICT consulting for over 20 years – assisting corporate and government clients to gain the most from their ICT investments.