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The NBN is Coming Your Way

The NBN is Coming Your Way


If it hasn't already arrived, within the next few years the NBN is coming your way, but what is it, what do you have to do - and what are some of the issues you should be aware of?

What is it and how does it work?

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is an upgrade to Australia's existing telecommunications - phone and internet - infrastructure. It is intended to deliver faster, more reliable internet to more of Australia. It works by replacing the copper cables that make up most of the current setup with fibre cables which are capable of carrying much more information and faster. Getting the NBN to you will happen in one of a few different ways:

• Fibre to the node - this is where fibre is run to a node, usually in a street cabinet and then connected to the existing copper cables which already run into the home. This is the most common option.
• Fibre to the premises - this option is where fibre is then extended from the node into the home, this extra step will generally be at a cost to the consumer but may offer the option of higher speed internet.
• Fibre to the building - in the case of apartment blocks or similar buildings fibre can be run into a communications room in the building and then connected to the existing cables in the building
• Hybrid fibre coaxial - where there is an existing pay TV or cable network in place fibre can be run to the node then connected to this cable to make the final connection into the home.

Things to be aware of:

You do not need to upgrade straight away

Upgrading to a new plan immediately is NOT mandatory. Once you've been notified that you can switch to the NBN you have 18 months to move your services to a new network before your old one is cut off. That should give you plenty of time to look at the different providers and see what they have to offer. Do bear in mind though that new services can take time to organise and set up so we wouldn't suggest waiting until the last minute! 

Communications about upgrading

You will receive multiple communications from NBN once it's available to you, in addition you are also likely to receive marketing from your current and other telco providers encouraging you to sign up to their plans. While this is to be expected some people have reported feeling pressured to switch to NBN, threatened or confused by all the communications. If you have received communications (either written or on the phone) from NBN providers that you consider to be pressuring, confusing, hard to understand or threatening, please contact us to share your experiences on cotasa@cotasa.org.au - this will enable us to take the issue forward.

Speed of the new service will vary

Not everyone will be able to access the highest speed available on the NBN. The speed of your NBN service will depend both on how the NBN is connected to your premises and what plan you sign up for. Whereas the cost of traditional broadband plans are generally linked to how many Gigabytes you want available to use in a month, NBN plans are based on on both data allowance and on the speed of service you want/need.

You don't necessarily need an expensive plan

Following on from the previous point, service providers will be offering NBN plans with very high speeds - for a cost... And they'd love for you to sign up to the most expensive plan! Before you sign up to any plan - especially a high speed one which costs than your current ADSL plan have a look at the options and really think about what you need. Are you fairly happy with the speed of your current interent? If so, a lower speed NBN plan will probably meet your needs. If you frequently upload and download large files and are frustrated by how long it takes then perhaps a higher speed plan might be worth considering. Bear in mind as well that while there are always penalties for trying to switch to a lower plan if you're on a fixed contract, providers will usually be quite accommodating to upgrading to a higher plan later - so it's better to sign up to a lower speed/lower cost plan then upgrade than the other way round.

Incompatible phones and devices

Your old phones and devices may not be compatible with the new network - once you've decided to upgrade, talk to your provider about whether your equipment will continue working or needs to be replaced. For example, old telephones which don't have a separate power source will no long work.

Not blackout ready

Unlike your old phone system the NBN doesn't deliver power down the cable - so equipment connected over the NBN network will not work during a power blackout. It's worth having a backup such as a charged mobile phone for this eventuality. If you have safety critical alarms linked to the internet/phone line in your home you should talk to your device provider about whether they'll still work and what alternatives are available if not.

Medical alert systems and the NBN

Some existing medical alert systems will not be compatible with the NBN. COTA is a member of ACCAN (Australian Communications Consumers Action Network) which has lobbied to raise awareness of this issue. One of the outcomes of this is that NBN is now engaging with the providers of monitored medical alert systems to assist them with ensuring their customers can transition smoothly. However, if you have a monitored medical alert system it is still recommended that you contact your provider directly well in advance of switching networks to discuss the best option for you. See this document for more information on medical alarms and the NBN http://www.nbnco.com.au/content/dam/nbnco2/documents/medical-alarm-brochure.pdf.

If you have an unmonitored alarm these also may be compatible but unfortunately they come in such a wide variety of types and technologies, some of which may be old or have been purchased overseas, that NBN are unlikely to be able to assist with transitioning all of them. If you are able to contact the company that supplied the device it is worth checking with them if it will still work with the NBN.

If you have either type of alarm, you can register your alarm with the NBN so that they're aware of households that may need additional support moving to the new network - register your alarm here http://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/information-for-home/device-compatibility/medical-alarm-register.html

More information

For more information about the NBN visit http://www.nbnco.com.au/