FTTN, FTTC not good enough for Australian businesses, says NBN Co

NBN Co wants to use third-party fibre to connect businesses

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NBN Co has launched a new industry consultation process, revealing it is considering using existing third-party fibre to deliver business services.

The government-owned company’s targeting of the enterprise market has raised hackles with some network operators that have criticised it for building fibre in already well-served areas.

In a speech delivered in October, Vocus CEO Kevin Russell gave the example of a commercial building where NBN Co had recently become the seventh fibre provider. “Is this really where NBN should be spending taxpayer dollars?” the CEO asked.

NBN Co today released a consultation paper that noted its approach to connecting business to the National Broadband Network had “relied heavily on a mix of copper-based technologies” including fibre to the node (FTTN), fibre to the basement (FTTB) and fibre to the curb (FTTC).

“However, with bandwidth needs continually growing, increasing numbers of larger organisations now require dedicated high-speed, business grade, symmetrical services that can only be delivered over fibre infrastructure,” the consultation paper states.

The company currently allows business customers (or the relevant retail service provider) to request the upgrade of a connection to fibre to the premises (FTTP) or NBN Co’s Enterprise Ethernet. NBN Co then deploys new fibre regardless of whether there is existing third-party fibre in place.

NBN Co said that “a number of network operators and industry commentators” have noted that it may be more efficient for the company to leverage existing infrastructure. As a result, the company said it launched the current consultation with the aim of establishing an industry-wide procurement process for dark fibre connectivity services.

“To date, whilst we have usually installed new fibre connections to large customer locations when requested, we have made some limited use of existing fibre when we have done so,” said Will Irving, NBN Co’s chief strategy and transformation officer.

“However, because other network operators may have spare capacity on infrastructure serving some of these locations it may be unnecessary for NBN Co to duplicate the fibre infrastructure serving those premises.”

Doing so could make a substantial dent in company’s cost to serve business customers.

“We hear the industry, and this consultation paper explores ways NBN Co might efficiently obtain the use of that existing fibre to serve the needs of business and government customers who wish to be connected using the NBN network,” Irving said.

“As nbn’s use of third-party dark fibre connectivity services will be an alternative to building physical infrastructure, nbn will require unlimited, exclusive access to the entire optical spectrum available over the dark fibre connection,” the consultation paper states.

“This requirement will commence from the time of connection until the disconnection of that service. nbn will also require the ability to use the fibre to carry any signals, and change the signals carried over the fibre at any time.”

The company said it was considering either a request for proposal or reverse auction process for procurement.

Vocus calls for end to overbuilding

In a submission to an ongoing parliamentary inquiry examining the NBN, Vocus called on NBN Co to end overbuilding.

“Infrastructure investors are being undermined by tenders seeking 100% NBN fibre – favouring providers that have not invested in infrastructure over those that have built similarly-capable assets,” the submission said.

“This has long-term implications for the Enterprise market and the overall health of the communications sector. In many areas, NBN has proactively overbuilt competitive fibre to attract new Enterprise customers, regardless of whether or not there was any demand for an additional fibre operator at those locations.”

It also called for NBN Co to “honour its wholesale-only mandate” and not engage directly with end users.

NBN Co says that it is not selling services directly to enterprises.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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