The National Broadband Network (NBN) is an Australia-wide project funded by the Federal Government to provide all homes and businesses with a fast, reliable connection to the internet.
The current Federal Government has committed to build a mixed technology network (also referred to as the multi-technology mix, or MTM), with some houses connecting to the core network using fast fibre-optic cable and others using the existing copper phone lines or HFC. For homes not physically connected to the National Broadband Network, there will be Fixed Wireless and Satellite options made available.
In this article we'll address both the technological and practical aspects associated with connecting to the NBN, especially the parts you need to know before an NBN technician comes knocking on your door.
What do you need to do to connect to the NBN?
In most cases, connecting to the NBN, including all of the necessary equipment, is completely free. You don't need to do anything until it is time to choose a new NBN plan. The government covers this cost.
Across Australia right now there are teams of installers working hard to connect every home to the network. In most cases, this involves laying fibre optic cables under the street, so you should begin seeing this work in your neighbourhood soon.
To find out when the NBN is coming to your neighbourhood, check out our rollout map.
It's important to note that while NBN covers the cost of getting your house connected (and any necessary infrastructure that may need to be installed), you will still need to pay your provider a monthly fee. Depending on the kind of contract you take up, you may also need to pay your provider an installation or hardware fee.
Also, If you are connecting a newly developed house to the NBN, and there has never been any telecommunications services connected to the property before, the NBN charges your service provider a once-off $300 contribution fee, which your service provider may pass on to to you as part of your setup costs.
There are seven types of NBN connections:
Fibre-to-the-Premises - or FTTP - is where a home or business is directly connected to the National Broadband Network through the use of fibre optic cables.
Fibre-to-the-Node - or FTTN - is where fibre is run to a central cabinet (a node) that services a given neighbourhood. Houses in that neighbourhood then connect to that cabinet over the same copper wire currently used for ADSL broadband.
Fibre-or-the-Building - or FTTB - is very similar to Fibre-to-the-Node. The key difference is that fibre is run directly to a central room in an apartment block or office, and existing copper is used to get each individual unit or suite online.
Fibre-to-the-Curb - or FTTC - is almost like a hybrid of Fibre-to-the-Premises and Fibre-to-the-Node. Rather than taking fibre to a central node in a neighbourhood, fibre is laid directly to a property's kerb. The final connection from the curb to your house is made with the existing copper phone line.
FTTC is also referred to as Fibre-to-the-Kerb (FTTK) or Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp).
Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial - or HFC - is more colloquially referred to as cable. HFC is an existing network technology commonly used to deliver digital pay TV series such as Foxtel that is being repurposed as part of the National Broadband Network rollout.
Fixed Wireless NBN connections use 4G radio signals (similar to those used by your smartphone) to deliver internet access to homes and businesses in rural areas.
Satellite (Sky Muster)
NBN's Satellite service used two satellites - Sky Muster and Sky Muster II - working in tandem to provide internet access to those in regional and remote Australia.
Is the NBN more expensive?
In general, the NBN shouldn’t be more expensive, unless you want the fastest speeds.
The Government is controlling wholesale pricing to make sure that everyone can connect to the network at a fair price, and this is holding true so far.
The NBN comes in four commonly available speed tiers. Each is essentially the same product, but incrementally faster as you step up the tiers. For reference, this is how the tiers are currently laid out, with separate download and upload speeds.
The Four NBN speed tiers:
- NBN 12: 12Mbps download / 1Mbps upload
- NBN 25: 25Mbps download / 5Mbps upload
- NBN 50: 50Mbps download / 20Mbps upload
- NBN 100: 100Mbps download / 40Mbps upload
Since NBN plans started popping up, we haven't noticed any difference in the price of a NBN 12 or NBN 25 plans compared with a standard ADSL2+ connection, even when it is bundled with a home phone service or internet TV, like Foxtel.
You will pay more for the faster NBN 50 and NBN 100 products, either by choosing a more expensive plan, or by opting in for a "Speed Boost" on a standard NBN plan.
Speed boosts tend to start at around $10 per month, but this varies from telco to telco.
Why is the NBN so important?
You may not recognise it now, but the internet is central to the way we will continue to live and work into the foreseeable future. What is harder to predict is how we will use the internet, and whether these future purposes will require ever faster connection. The NBN is about future-proofing Australian homes and businesses.
When you think about the internet as we use it today, it may be difficult to find sound reasoning for super-charging the current networks. After all, ADSL broadband is sufficient for general web browsing, Facebook and even video-streaming via sites like Netflix.
It is also suitable for most business purposes. The internet powers customer databases, payrolls and we can even work remotely, in a pinch.
But imagine, in the future, if you could visit the doctor from your bedroom. That with a high-definition video call your GP could could consult with you as effectively as if you were in the same room. Or imagine you live in a regional town and the nearest school is over an hour away by bus. With the NBN, it would be possible for all students to dial-in to the classroom and participate remotely.
Beyond these simple examples are the multitude of new opportunities that haven’t even been created yet. Recent history has proven that as technology advances new industry and thousands of jobs are created. The idea of a internet-connected smartphones would have seemed far-fetched, even 20 or 30 years ago. What will the next 20 years bring? By creating this enormous web of communication, faster than anything ever made available to Australians before, we will be allowing the transmission of ideas on a larger scale than at any time in history and innovation will certainly follow.
Comparisons may be drawn to other emerging technologies throughout history. Take the advent of electricity; few could have foreseen microwaves, televisions and dishwashers as the first DC power plants were making their way across New York.
The printing press, when first adopted in Europe, allowed for a national identity beyond that of just a town, or province. A worker in Gloucester could suddenly keep abreast of news coming out of London and feel as though they were part of the decisions being made in their country.
Televisions, telephones, mobile phones, computer chips, automobiles, airplanes; these are all examples of technologies that have shaped our world in ways that may seem obvious now, but couldn’t be conceived of when first introduced.
Observe how far the internet itself has come since it was first commercialised in the 1990’s. Each successive step was made available by faster internet speeds, driven by higher demands for more detailed and innovative online content. This in turn led to a higher demand and, as such, higher speeds again. Super-fast optical fibre broadband is just another step in the process. It may seem unnecessarily fast to some people right now, but in ten, or twenty years’ time it won’t.
The NBN will deliver Australians and Australian businesses into the future through a truly modern broadband experience. In a country as geographically isolated as ours, keeping up with internet technologies could not be more important.