The rollout of the NBN has become quite a contentious issue. As homes and businesses demand more internet bandwidth at greater speeds to complement their lifestyles & productivity, it’s important to understand the current situation (from both sides of the political fence) and what it means for the future of your and your business – irrespective of where you live and work in Australia.
What we know
You may have been keeping up with the NBN news cycle, but if you haven't, here’s a summary of what has happened so far:
Labor's initial network plan included running fibre cabling directly to homes and businesses- often referred to as the "fibre-to-the-premises" network.
That would enable incredible internet speeds of up to 1000 megabytes per second (Mb/s). That speed is built largely for the future. Realistically,it's more than anyone needs right now.
To build the network is a significant challenge in terms of cost and time. As a result, there have been reports of cutting corners due to time pressure. According to The Australian, as many as 21,000 homes were considered to have defects in the newly-installed network.
The Coalition's plan differs in one fundamental way: instead of running fibre directly to homes and businesses, their plan would entail running the fibre only to the street cabinets, then using Telstra's existing copper network to feed the service directly into homes (this is the fibre-to-the-node plan). That would mean drastically reducing the potential internet speed, to 25 Mb/s.
The goal here is more immediate savings. According to Minister for Communications Malcom Turnbull, it would cost around $3600 per case to run fibre to the home, but only around $900 to run it to the street cabinet. The total savings would be around $14.6 billion – for now.
For most, 25Mb/s would be a sufficient upgrade. It allows adequate download speeds, and ensures enough bandwidth to handle most tasks like streaming video.
Where the concern lies is with the quality of the existing copper network that the fibre cabling will connect to. At the end of the day, the network as a whole will only be as good as the copper running to homes and businesses.
The Coalition has stated that exceptions would be made on a case-by-case basis: where the existing copper network will not suffice, fibre will have to be installed directly to the home. That's a potential downside.
One potential upside is the reduction in the sheer amount of work that will go into building the Coalition's network. Without such stringent demands, workers will be better equipped to ensure a reliable build quality in the network, and it will likely happen much sooner.
What does this mean for you?
The rollout of the NBN is a ‘given’. It’s just a matter of when. So, the next question is: how will a faster network affect you and your business?
The Coalitions’(25 megabytes/second) planis not the network of the future when you think long term, but it is a sufficient upgrade for now that means you will be able to handle significantly more internet-based tasks than the current network allows.
For instance, many of our customers are beginning to transition to cloud-based computing. Switching to the cloud has many advantages (as we discussed in our recent cloud computing blog post), but in summary:
- It's less expensive, because you can drastically reduce your software and hardware costs, licensing costs, and IT resource.
- It's secure, because data is stored in data centres that belong to the provider, meaning that they're responsible for the security of your data.
- It's easy, because cloud solutions tend to come with a much smaller learning curve than traditional, desktop-based software.
So, when you do upgrade to the NBN, a speed of 25 megabytes/second will allow you to switch to cloud computing at any time with virtually no fuss – allowing you to continue doing business with efficiency.
The way you resource your business could change significantly when you roll over to the NBN. Teleworking will start to become much more prevalent – allowing you to hire extra resource to work remotely (often at short notice) if you need, or perhaps allowing your team to work remotely from home outside of their regular office hours if need be.
Either way, the initial speed of the NBN will be enough to handle basic online tasks.
In a recent interview with the Illawarra Mercury, Marina Varda summed it up well:
For freelance graphic designer Marina Varda, having broadband fibre connected straight to her Keiraville home would have transformed her work.
‘‘I do some work from home and I need upload speeds to get my work out to clients and it’s nearly impossible on the system we have today,’’ she said.
If client meetings are a regular part of your workday, the increased speed and bandwidth could translate to fewer out-of-office meetings, because you can instead take advantage of teleconferencing software like Skype or Google Hangouts.
But there could be a downside. While it won’t be an issue for all, 25Mb/s can easily handle most video-related needs, but as you scale up your business resource, it's fair to say that the network would struggle if for example you try to run several Skype video calls simultaneously.
At the time of writing this article, there still seems a very long way to go before every home and business is connected to the NBN. We will be keeping watch as it develops, but if you are interested, a useful resource is the official NBN website: www.nbnco.com.au where you can learn a whole lot more about how the rollout is planned, and when it will likely be coming to your area.
As always, if you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to give our helpdesk a call on 02 4254 5444.