The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a huge nation-wide infrastructure project that’s being set up to provide every home and business in Australia with a fast and reliable internet connection, no matter where you live. We’re going to cover all the essential info about the NBN, including all the info you need to know before a letter arrives in the mail to tell you the NBN’s ready for you.
The history of what we now know as the NBN goes all the way back to 2003, when the Howard government recommended that a national fibre network be built to replace ageing copper phone lines. Fibre lasts for decades, is extremely fast and durable, and can accommodate future advances in speed.
The incoming Liberal government decided to use a mix of different technologies, still using fibre for newly constructed buildings such as apartments, but opting for a cheaper method called “fibre to the node” (FTTN) for much of the country. FTTN puts a big metal box on the street connected by fibre to the exchange, and users then connect to the box via the existing copper phone lines. It’s a system that will still give many people faster broadband, but it’s nowhere near as fast or future-proof as a fibre connection right to your home. Added to that, remote areas will not be connected by cables at all – instead, they’ll get fast wireless broadband, kind of an amped-up permanent version of the 4G tech used for mobile broadband on your smartphone today.
One very real advantage of the way the NBN has been set up, is with the way you connect to it. That two-week wait for the internet is very much a thing of the past on the NBN. You call your chosen ISP, sign up for whatever plan suits you, and you’re literally up and running within hours, if not less. If you want to switch ISPs later on, that can be done just as seamlessly, with almost no downtime. With the fibre NBN you can even, if you like, subscribe to multiple ISPs at the same time (potentially useful for shared houses where people want control over their internet connection, for example).
Can I Get connected to the NBN?
Unfortunately, thanks to the slow rollout and the changes brought about by politics, relatively few people have access to the NBN at the moment. As of March 2015, just over 700,000 homes and businesses have access to the NBN with slightly less than half that number having connected to it. As the rollout ramps up to full speed that should increase rapidly, but for now, the best way to find out if you’ve got NBN access now (or are likely to get it soon) is to head to the web. The government operates a special site for the purpose at https://www.mybroadband.communications.gov.au/ – you can enter your address there and it’ll tell you what kind of broadband services are available in your area, as well as a rough idea of the speeds you can expect. However, it’s not always accurate when it comes to the NBN – new buildings and houses that got the fibre NBN built in during construction often aren’t listed even though they can connect already. The best way to find out is to head to the NBN’s own web site at http://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/check-your-address.html – it also lets you enter your address to see if you have coverage, but also shows buildings already fully connected on a map. And, of course, you can use our very own NBN rollout tracker to see when the speedy internet will be available in your area.
If you’re one of the lucky ones and the NBN is ready to go in your area, then get in touch with your choice of ISP to get the ball rolling. All of the major ISPs offer NBN services, and the decision you make is going to come down to both price and the ISP’s reputation for service quality. For fibre NBN, you’ll get a choice of various connection speeds, ranging from 12Mbps (similar to an average ADSL connection) up to a blazing fast 100Mbps; faster, of course, costs more. With your decision made, your chosen ISP will check to see if the NBN’s fibre is already installed in your home. If it is, you’ll know about it thanks to the large NBN-labelled boxes on the inside and (for houses) the outside of the premises. Otherwise, an installation will have to be organised. This is done by NBN technicians free of charge.
What do I need to get connected?
It’s important to mention that your current broadband modem probably won’t work with the NBN (some more advanced ones can, but it’s relatively rare). For that reason, most ISPs will provide you with the hardware you need – known as a router – or alternatively, you can buy your own so you get a choice of features you might want (such as advanced Wi-Fi speeds, for example).
How fast your download and upload speeds are will depend on the type of connection you get. FTTN connections are guaranteed 25Mbps down, but are capable of up to twice that, depending on the condition of the copper wires from your home to the street cabinet. Those connected via HFC (the existing pay TV cables) should see speeds similar to cable internet now, up to 100Mbps down with the potential to reach 300Mbps. With fibre connections, it’s a different story, as you get to choose one of five “tiers” of speed, with a faster link costing more per month. The speed tiers are:
If you spend any amount of time doing stuff on the internet, the NBN is going to make doing that stuff a much more pleasant experience. The sheer speed available at the top end means that streaming movies and TV from the likes of Netflix or Stan is an easy ask, with the dreaded buffering a thing of the past, and HD (or even 4K) streaming becomes hassle-free. But even just the day-to-day things done much faster – web pages load in seconds, files download at lightning speed, and everything still works when it’s raining! Added to all this is the faster upload speed that comes with fibre connections. Uploading photos or videos is so much faster you wonder how you coped for so long without it.
Ultimately, everyone will be moved over to the NBN in one form or another, and almost all of them are going to get a better internet experience because of it. If you can get it now, jump at the chance and discover all all-round nicer internet experience.