A CIO's Guide to the NBN

A CIO's Guide to the NBN

Australia's $43 billion National Broadband Network will usher in a new era of connectivity and business innovation. Here’s what CIOs need to know. . .

Forests have been felled and new server rooms built to carry the torrent of words written about broadband Internet access in Australia. Some of the country’s most brilliant technical, business and social minds have joined what has become at times little more than a cacophony of claims, counter-claims and lies.

And what do we have to show for it? Something close to the slowest, most expensive and most inequitable Internet access on the planet -- the worst of all worlds. Even our own prime minister calls us a “broadband backwater”.

Not for long.

The NBN is about how a CIO can change a business model to either be more disruptive, to find a lower cost method, or to tap into new talent pools

John Simon, managing director of Optus Enterprise and Business Group

If you hadn’t heard, the Federal Government has established the National Broadband Network Company (NBNCo) and will spend $43 billion -- the GDP of Luxembourg -- building a new fibre optic national broadband network. It is the largest infrastructure project in Australia’s history, the single largest investment by any Australian government and it will transform how we live, work and play. That’s the theory.

CIO canvassed a wide range of opinions from within and outside the telecommunications industry -- CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, boosters, soothsayers and naysayers -- to build a no-nonsense perspective on just what the NBN means.

How the NBN will transform telco carriers and the services they offer

You can almost hear Ravi Bhatia, the CEO of Primus Telecom; David Yuile, the COO and CIO of AAPT; and John Simon, managing director of Optus Enterprise and Business Group, rubbing their hands with glee as they wax lyrical about the NBN.

For them, and the businesses they lead, a wholesale-only, open access network with equal prices and terms for all comers is the Nirvana they have longed for.

For their customers? Well, what’s not possible with an Internet connection of 100 megabits per second direct to every home, school and workplace in the country? “Where you deploy competitive infrastructure it challenges the incumbent and you can deliver new services that appeal to the market,” says Simon from Optus. “That has been proved in our mobile market share in metro Australia and with our IP-VPN product for corporates.

“Where everyone struggles is when you’re trying to meet corporate needs that span Australia. In wholesale, an STM1 link from Sydney to Melbourne will cost a certain amount. The same capacity from Melbourne to Mildura, for example -- less than half the distance -- will cost 10 times as much. The end user has to cover that cost and that’s why you don’t get competition, you don’t get take-up in those areas and you end up with a monopoly-type environment. The NBN will change all that.” Primus Telecom’s Bhatia says telcos will also have to change the way they sell their wares.

“A lot of what we do now is already a commodity,” he says. “And a lot of what we custom build for businesses today will become a commodity. It will be sold on the Net. So we have to create foolproof processes to sell it on the Net, make it simple and provision it quickly because that’s what our customers will demand, especially the low-end mid-corporate and high-end SME sectors.”

AAPT’s Yuile says that historically, telecommunications have been seen only as voice, Internet and data. This too will change. “With the NBN and changes in technology in general, things will move from being at the customer premises, or in the home, to being in the cloud,” he says. “Your VCR will disappear and your desktop at home will disappear because that computing power will exist in the cloud. Your home and office will un-clutter because the speed of your connection will allow you to operate everything via the cloud.”

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