The National Broadband Network (NBN) has never been planned as a speedy rollout; on current projections, it won't be completed until after 2021. But has waiting around for it meant that other providers have stopped building infrastructure for the business market?
Cable picture from Shutterstock
Bennett Oprysa, CEO of Australian managed cloud service provider BitCloud, said that the NBN has affected the rollout plans of some business ISPs, which in turn affected the range of products that BitCloud could potentially offer to its customers. "The NBN has been a very damaging exercise, because as soon as it was announced, all the telcos stopped developing new services," he told a press luncheon yesterday. BitCloud uses AAPT and BigAir to provide connectivity to its customers. "It's been problematic," he said.
Taking that claim at face value, the obvious question is: would the scenario be different with no NBN at all, or with a different approach? The Coalition says that its policy is to identify areas of greatest need and focus broadband rollouts there. That would mean that in areas which already had a range of services, NBN builds might well be slower. It's not clear that would automatically mean more choices for business buyers; it might mean they would still be stuck with what is already on offer, or face a scenario where they can resell capacity from just a handful of providers.
But that assumes no expansion is taken place, and I'd suggest that isn't entirely the case. Some communication companies have continued to expand their networks despite the NBN rollout. A single example: Andrew Findlay, managing director for wireless network infrastructure Vertel, said that its expansion plans have not changed because of the NBN. "We use a hybrid wireless and fibre solution to get to the areas that the NBN can't" he said. "Our difference we deliver over point-to-point microwave We drag it all the way back to the major metropolitan areas rather than going with ports of interconnect like the NBN."
Findlay argues that there are large amounts of business-owned fibre already in Australia; the challenge is being able to break in or out of them. That scenario requires business negotiations, but exists entirely outside the NBN universe. Findlay notes that NBN Co has not actively explored alternative technologies for rolling out broadband.
However, the alternative providers are there. Vertel's services might not be priced at a level that makes sense for BitCloud or its customers, and that more nuanced view makes more sense than simply claiming the NBN itself is responsible for the slowdown. No matter how much competition is out there, you won't always get services as cheaply as you (or your boss) would like.