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NBN is coming, but is competition?

05 Feb 2018

NBN is coming, but is competition? Image

By Shane Scanlan

NBN Co should be rolled out throughout Docklands by the end of the year but at least one building looks like missing out on the benefits of competition among internet service providers (ISPs).

Like many other Docklands buildings, LifeLab in Digital Harbour has been designated as “adequately served”. But unlike the others, only Telstra connections are available. LifeLab has enjoyed high-speed fibre since it was constructed 10 years ago, during an era that preceded the establishment of NBN Co in 2009.

NBN Co says on its website: “It is intended to level the playing field in Australian telecommunications, creating real and vibrant competition within the industry and providing choice for consumers.”

Challenged by Docklands News about why competition should not apply to LifeLab customers, NBN Co spokesperson James Kaufman said NBN was “simply following government policy”.

“I would suggest making contact with the Department of Communications about this issue,” Mr Kaufman said.

Digital Harbour precinct manager Mark Newbegin believes Telstra enjoys a monopoly at LifeLab, a claim disputed Telstra’s Victorian media manager James Kelly.

Mr Kelly said: “Telstra has developed wholesale telephony and broadband products which can be delivered on this network.”

However, he was not able to name a competing ISP offering services at LifeLab, saying: “We don’t reveal who our commercial wholesale customers are.”

Telstra-owned ISP Belong is one of any number that does not service LifeLab (see image). And Mr Newbegin said the only unit in the building not using Telstra Velocity was forced to bring its own fibre in.

An ISP told Docklands News that LifeLab’s older technology meant it couldn’t offer services even if it was allowed to.

Mr Kelly said: “They may be required to build a small amount of their own infrastructure to interface to the Telstra network in order to resell our product. This should be something most ISPs can do easily.”

Mr Newbegin said: “This is the first time in almost 10 years that I have heard the word ‘wholesaler’ in reference to the Velocity product at this site.”

“To date, no other ISP has managed to gain access to the Velocity system to provide broadband services to customers in this building.”

“I am yet to understand how what Telstra is saying is possible.”

Mr Kaufman said there were some isolated examples around Australia which NBN would be bypassing “due to directions provided by the site owner and the Australian Government.”

Mr Kaufman said: “Under the Federal Government’s Telecommunications in New Developments Policy, NBN Co may choose not to build its network in areas which have been declared as ‘adequately served’ with high-speed broadband or which have an existing network providing comparable outcomes.”

However, the NBN website says companies which built fibre to “adequately served” areas “will be required to offer wholesale access to their network to other companies”.

Mr Kaufman pointed to other “adequately served” buildings in Docklands where fibre providers invite any number of ISPs to use the service, providing wide choices for occupiers.

In Victoria Harbour the Lendlease-owned NT Technology Services Pty Ltd was licensed in 2014 to provide fibre to Forte, Exo, Serrata, Convesso and Concavo. Similarly, wholesaler Opticomm provides a wide range of choices to residents of 883, 888 and 889 Collins St tower as well as two towers in Yarra’s Edge.

Somewhat ironically, in other fibre-served areas with existing choices of retail provider, NBN intends to build an alternative network over the top of the existing infrastructure.

Watergate building management believes NBN is coming in, despite existing competitive high-speed fibre offered by Spirit Telecom.

NBN Co says 3171 of Docklands’ 8567 premises are “ready for service on the NBN broadband access network”.

NBN’s online map shows NBN is completing this its roll out in Docklands – generally to either the curb (FTTC), fibre to the building (FTTB) or, as in Yarra’s Edge, fibre to the node (FTTN). Completion dates are generally predicted to be September this year.

Some newer developments in Docklands have fibre to the premises (FTTP), including Marina Tower, H1 and The Quays in NewQuay, and Dock 5 has been retrofitted with FTTP.

Other towers with NBN fibre to the building include: Conder, Sant Elia and The Mariner in NewQuay; Village Docklands in Batman’s Hill; The Merchant and Montage in Victoria Harbour; and Victoria Point.

NBN said: “We are building our network to 28 sites in Docklands. Nine of these sites have had their construction works completed. Some may still require works in order to become ready for a service on the network. There are 17 more sites that are in the design phase. This is the process that comes pre-construction.”

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