What does the NBN mean for you?

man in field on tablet connected via nbn

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s largest infrastructure project with the current estimated cost reaching $40 billion. Its objective is to provide high-speed broadband access to Australian homes and businesses through a combination of fixed and wireless technologies.

In February 2017, the NBN Co released the expected timeframes for addresses to be connected to the NBN, as well as the technology types each will receive. You can find this here. There has been some debate as to whether this information has been worthwhile. As we have seen, NBN Co.’s plans can change just as quickly as Australia changes PM.

Despite the uncertainty, the updated map does provide an idea of what to expect. If you’re moving house or opening a new office, running the address through the map before making a decision could save you a telecommunications-related headache in the future.

So what do you need to know about the NBN if it’s ready in your area?

Firstly, just because you’ve searched one address in your suburb that is ready for service doesn’t necessarily mean another address in that same suburb will be, too. Due to the existing network infrastructure and geography restrictions, the NBN is connected by predetermined “rollout regions” rather than by suburb. This means Ready for Service (RFS) dates and Copper Disconnection Dates (usually 18 months after RFS) can vary.

Secondly, what technology are you going to be serviced by?  This can also depend upon the existing infrastructure and geography restrictions in your location. The types of technology provided on the NBN include:

  • Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)
  • Fibre to the Node (FTTN)
  • Hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC)
  • Fibre to the Curb (FTTC; previously known as Fibre to the Distribution Point or FTTdp)
  • Fixed wireless
  • Satellite

Each type connects to your home or office differently, which means how your service operates will vary. This includes network performance, maximum speeds and minimum acceptable speeds, potential for congestion, troubleshooting steps and what service providers you can sign up with.

What can you do if your NBN isn’t living up expectations?

It’s important to remember that along with external factors such as technology type, there are a multitude of internal factors that can impact your service as well. If your connection is running below expectations, consider the following:

Are you using Wi-Fi? If so, where is your modem located? If there are walls between you this will affect the connection. It’s also best to keep it away from microwaves and fish tanks that can diffuse the signal and somewhere up high as the signal travels best downwards.

Can your device support the speed? Check your wireless card or Ethernet port to confirm the maximum speed your hardware can attain. You should also verify whether your hard drive is performing fast enough as well, as anything you download will need to be written to your hard drive. Remember, if your cables are old or not in good condition this can also affect your performance.

Lastly, when did you last turn your modem and computer off? It may seem like a simple fix but it does have a big impact. When you restart, any programs or processes running in the background stop. This clears your cache and improves your network performance. Lifewire explain this in their article, “Why Does Restarting Seem to Fix Most Computer Problems?

You’ve tried everything and your NBN is still not up to standard – now what?

A common misconception many people hold about the NBN is that your service provider won’t have an impact on your connection whatsoever. While this has (for the most part) been the case with ADSL connections, the NBN landscape is a little different.

There are 121 Points of Interconnect (POIs) for the NBN in Australia. These points are places where the NBN interacts with existing network infrastructure, such as Telstra and Optus’ fibre and copper networks in order for the data pack (e.g.: your email or VoIP phone call) to reach its destination.

Picture the NBN like a highway. The POIs are toll bridges and your service provider is a gatekeeper. If your service provider has only purchased enough for one toll booth at a toll bridge/POI, then that service provider’s traffic will become congested. This will result in slow speeds or buffering for the end user (i.e.: you). To better visualise this, the NBN Co created a flash graphic about this exact situation. Take a look here.

If you have done all the internal troubleshooting steps mentioned above and your service is still under performing, it may be time to talk to your service provider. They may need to look into purchasing more bandwidth (or toll booths) to keep up with the demand.

While the NBN has been and mostly likely always will be a contentious subject, it’s still an exciting step forward in technology infrastructure for Australia. Ultimately, it will lead to more connected homes and businesses, which means greater opportunities and innovation.

Rohan Doyle

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