The introduction of M2’s nbn wholesale offering could spark increased competition in Layer 2 and 3 wholesale broadband market
This week, the M2 Group announced the launch of their new “NBN Connect” offering for Layer 2 and Layer 3 providers. “NBN Connect” will provide three core products to resellers and layer 2 service providers, helping them connect to all 121 NBN Points of Interconnect: “Brand Connect” which is essentially a whitelabel service, “Reseller Connect” an end-to-end Layer 3 network offering and “Network Connect” — a Layer 2 aggregation offering. This comes as nbn appears to be developing an AVC trunking product to help smaller service providers reach more points of interconnects.
M2’s offering competes directly with AAPT’s National Wholesale Broadband product, who also provides Layer 2 or Layer 3 services to retailers over the NBN. After the closure of Nextgen Network’s NBN “Virtual Connect” offering around twelve months ago, AAPT became appeared to become the Layer 3 provider of choice with many virtual service providers.
M2 could also have a competitive edge with its wholesale offering with its “Brand Connect” product — a bespoke solution which could help manage billing, provisioning and customer service for to end-user customers. This could be a dealbreaker for customers like major supermarket chains who may not necessarily want to run their own support staff.
One thing’s for sure — increased competition in this space is a welcome sight for virtual ISPs who presumably run on razor thin margins anyway. The planned M2 and Vocus merger, which recently received ACCC approval, could translate to better performance in the currently debatable quality of the M2 network. Hopefully this translates to greater savings for consumers in the long run.
New product to transmit terrestrial TV signals over NBN fibre is designed to compete with other fibre providers for new developments
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released a briefing paper on the so-called Fibre TV concept, requesting for feedback and expression of interest. Fibre TV would take advantage of the Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG) standard, enabling Radio Frequency (RF) signals to be transmitted over fibre.
nbn‘s new product is seen as a response to the Federal Government’s updated Telecommunications in New Development (TIND) policy which has seen increased competition for delivering telecommunications infrastructure to new developments. Many new developments who are serviced by other fibre providers take advantage of this technology, which enables developments access free-to-air TV with antenna-less rooftops and also potentially gain access to premium channels not otherwise transmitted over free to air TV.
Previously, nbn had removed RFoG functionality from their network when it acquired the TransACT Fibre to the Premises network around Canberra. TransACT previously took advantage of this technology, however, as part of the transition to NBN Fibre — antennas were installed in place service.
In the briefing paper, the company outlines three main steps taken to enable Fibre TV in a new development:
Firstly, a number of TV service providers will sign an “RF Light Path Agreement” enabling them to use their RFoG equipment on the nbn network where needed. These providers will typically provide free-to-air TV services, but can also provide premium services.
New developments would then, on engaging with nbn to build out their fibre network, request the company to enable this technology in the network. The company would install an RF converter, separate to the Fibre Network Termination Device (F-NTD), to connect to the coaxial TV cable within the home.
The development would could then engage with nbn-certified TV service providers to provide their residents with television services over fibre.
Under the proposal, nbn will only make this service available to new developments greater than 250 Multi-Dwelling Units or 500 Single-Dwelling Units in the FTTP footprint.
Feedback and expression of interest in the Fibre TV service is due back to nbn by 10th November 2015.
For a small fee, nbn could allow small service providers tap into its transit network to drive up backhaul market competition
nbn, the company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, has reportedly been working with smaller service providers in developing a so-called “AVC trunking” service.
Currently, service providers are required to connect their network with nbn‘s 121 points of interconnect located around Australia in order to service all of Australia. This puts smaller service providers who do not have existing backhaul networks at a big disadvantage.
This AVC trunking project aims to allow smaller Tier 2 service providers to take advantage of nbn‘s inter-POI (point of interconnect) transit network by paying a small fee to terminate Access Virtual Circuits (AVCs) from smaller or more remote Points of Interconnect to larger depots located in capital cities.
ACCC seeks feedback from small providers
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has interviewed a number of small service providers to obtain feedback regarding nbn‘s AVC trunking project. It’s understood that feedback from small service providers has been overwhelmingly positive.
Paul Rees, Managing Director of the ISP SkyMesh, has noted on Whirlpool Broadband Forums that: “Unless the ACCC approves this scheme, or the larger providers start offering backhaul at realistic prices, we’ll never make it to Tasmania, the Northern Territory or far north Queensland. If the ACCC is serious about maintaining competition on the nbn™ network, they will approve [CVC Trunking].”
A consolidated backhaul market
When the NBN was first established, NBN Co had preferred a 7+7 Point of Interconnect model where service providers would connect to major interconnection points in capital cities to service an entire state. However, after lobbying from major backhaul monopoly providers from the likes of Telstra and Optus — the ACCC favoured a dispersed 121 Point of Interconnection model.
Since the ACCC decision, major acquisitions by TPG and M2 have resulted in significantly reduced competition in the backhaul market. Most notably, TPG’s acquisition of PIPE Networks and AAPT, plus the recent Vocus-M2 merger sees almost all major backhaul providers aligning with a company with a consumer retail front. This could allow the companies to increase wholesale backhaul costs to their competitors to lock out retail competition.
By opening up nbn‘s inter POI transit network to the AVC trunking project, it could drive backhaul competition especially to regions with less transit competition such as Tasmania and Northern Territory. The implementation of any such project would be subject to approval by the ACCC.
nbn proposes standard 75GB data cap per month with 100GB and 150GB premium options to ensure satellites aren’t congested.
On Friday, nbn, the company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, released draft documents relating to the NBN Co Satellite Network set to launch in the second quarter of next year as part of the Satellite Trial Product Agreement. The documents (see bottom of page) reveal a number of measures and restrictions expected to be taken by the company to prevent excessive use of data by end users.
nbn will be introducing a concept called CVC Classes, which are essentially different levels of service on the NBN Co Satellite Network. There are three classes, starting with the standard CVC Class 0, plus two additional premium CVC Classes — 1 and 2. These classes are costed differently, have a different maximum contention ratio and have a different maximum data usage cap.
Cost-wise, the company will charge service providers an extra $18.00 and $40.00 ex. GST per Access Virtual Circuit (essentially, per end-user) for CVC Class 1 and 2 respectively on top of the existing AVC and CVC costs. CVC Class 0 will have no additional charge.
The following table shows the AVC + CVC Class Fee. (Note: this is not representative of the cost of NBN Satellite plans. Actual costs are likely to be higher as this excludes any CVC, NNI, network transit and peering costs incurred by Service Providers).
CVC Class Fee
Data usage caps
On the data usage cap side, the company is two key enforcement metrics across all classes. As part of the Fair Use Policy, nbn will introduce a per-AVC (essentially, per end-user) cap calculated on a rolling 4 week average basis. The maximum usage over the four weeks are 75 GB, 100 GB and 150 GB for CVC Class 0, 1 and 2 respectively. This is compared to 50 GB currently being enforced on the nbn Interim Satellite Service.
A second data usage enforcement metric is the “Peak Period” usage, which is calculated as an average across the Service Provider’s CVC Class user base. During this peak period, defined as being between 7:00 am to 1:00 am (the following day) in the local timezone of the premises — the average upload/download data usage across all the ISP’s CVC Class users is 15/3GB, 20/4GB and 25/5GB for CVC Class 0, 1 and 2 respectively.
User data cap
(4-week rolling avg)
Peak Period Download
(ISP 4-wk average)
Peak Period Upload
(ISP 4-wk average)
* this is not representative of the cost of NBN Satellite plans. Actual costs are likely to be higher as this excludes any CVC, NNI, network transit and peering costs incurred by Service Providers.
Failure for the service provider to comply with the data usage caps could result in data deprioritisation by nbn and/or shaping upload and download speeds to 256/256kbps until the issue is resolved.
nbn will also place restrictions on the CVC-to-AVC contention ratio, enforcing a minimum number of end users a service provider must have on a particular CVC before allowing them to step up to the next tier.
On a CVC Class 0 CVC, the CVC capacity can range from the initial 100 Mbps up to 475 Mbps in 25 Mbps intervals. The service provider must have at least 890 AVCs (equivalent to users) in that CVC Class in order to increase their CVC capacity beyond the initial 100 Mbps. A minimum of 210 additional AVCs are required for each 25 Mbps capacity increase.
For CVC Class 1, the maximum CVC capacity is 550 Mbps. To move beyond the initial 100 Mbps CVC, the service provider must have at least 680 AVCs and can increase in 25 Mbps intervals for every 195 AVCs.
CVC Class 2 CVCs have a maximum CVC capacity is 725 Mbps. Moving beyond the initial 100 Mbps CVC would require 548 AVCs and 25 Mbps increases for every 142 AVCs.
Maximum CVC (Mbps)
to move beyond
initial 100 Mbps
required for each
25 Mbps interval
beyond 100 Mbps
For assuming the 12/1 Mbps tier across all users: CVC class 0 provides a minimum contention ratio of ~1:106 with CVC class 1 and CVC Class 2 requiring a minimum contention of ~1:81 and ~1:68 respectively.
thoughts & analysis
Managing satellite network traffic has always been a tricky issue. One one hand, the company doesn’t want to be perceived as disadvantaging rural and regional areas. On the other hand, it is a necessity to make sure the service isn’t so heavily congested that no-one can use it.
The Interim Satellite Service was a good learning experience for nbn. Service providers wanted to offer their users “unlimited” or high quota plans, thinking it could be offset by many more low-usage users. They soon realised that the providers were unable to manage their own capacity well enough and soon, implemented traffic management policies to help manage the overly congested 48,000 users on the limited existing capacity of Optus and IPStar.
The limitations set by nbn are complex, there’s no doubt about that. There are more intricacies that are omitted in this post — simply because they are too hard to explain simply. These complexities means that small RSPs may struggle with implementing the traffic limiters and monitoring tools required to meet nbn‘s strict policies. This could result in reduced competition in the long run.
Note from the writer: Please take this section with a grain of salt. My views have changed substantially since this section was written because I had assumed that an end user could actually access all of the 75GB, 100GB and 150GB of data on CVC Class 0, 1 and 2 respectively. However, it is now evident to me that the Fair Use Policy has implications on time of use and doesn’t account for data incurred during shaped data usage. Please read the updated analysis for more information.
So, will 75 GB on a rolling 4-week average be enough? As a standard quota, I think it will fit within most people’s needs.
Currently, NBN offers 50 GB on a 4-week rolling average to their Interim Satellite Service. So, 75 GB may seem like a small bump — but it’s 50% more nonetheless.
To keep things in perspective, statistics released by ABS show the average data consumption across all fixed-line technologies (end of 2014) is around 60 GB. Further to that, the statistics released by nbn in their end of FY14/15 shows average data consumption on the NBN has steadily risen from 80 GB in September 2014 to 109 GB in June 2015. So on an average consumption basis, I think the 75 GB monthly quota would fit the bill for most people.
So while nbn would expect most customers who take up a standard-tier 75 GB plan, the option is there to bump it up to 150 GB which is technically above the 109 GB average for current fixed-line/fixed-wireless nbn end users.
We also need to consider the demographic of the majority of these users: they live in very rural or remote communities. Most regional centres are serviced by NBN Fixed Wireless and some form of NBN Fixed-line technology. The remaining of these customers would have previously had very limited Internet connectivity, if any.
The standard 75 GB, plus the option of the more expensive 100 and 150 GB tiers will provide these rural communities with more than just a taste of online connectivity. It will give users access to services like email and YouTube, and perhaps even more revolutionary — access to video conferencing through the likes of Skype or access to massive libraries of online TV content on Netflix, Presto or Stan. All this will be possible within the confines of 75 GB, provided image quality is throttled accordingly.
Ideally, of course, each user should be given more capacity. Hopefully, with the launch of the second satellite, nbn is able to augment some of the redundancy capacity on that satellite to use as more bandwidth for each user.
Remote customers advised to wait until Long Term Satellite launch in the second quarter of 2016.
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has updated their public website this afternoon — informing customers wishing to connect to their current Interim Satellite Solution (ISS) and the nbn™ Satellite Support Scheme (NSS) that it will cease accepting new orders for both services on November 15th, 2015. nbn will also cease installation of new equipment from December 15th, 2015.
This comes as the first NBN satellite, Sky Muster, successfully launched at the start of this month and is expected to commence commercial services in the second quarter of 2016.
The company has advised would-be customers of the ISS and NSS that after the cease-sale dates for both services:
[…] you will need to wait for the launch of our Long Term Satellite services expected in the second quarter of 2016 and then connect your retail service provider.
The Interim Satellite Solution (ISS) was a temporary service set-up to replace the existing Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) while the new NBN satellites were being designed and launched. The service, which uses existing satellite capacity on Optus and IPStar satellites, reached its maximum capacity of 48,000 customers in mid-December 2013 when it saw higher-than-anticipated take-up and use — leading to a serious congestion during peak periods. The company had since implemented a number of changes, including enforced data caps, to prevent service abuse. The service was opened up to an additional 9,000 activations in April 2014.
The new Long Term Satellite (LTS) significantly upgrades the existing satellite services on both the ISS and NSS, and is designed to deliver speeds of up to 25 Mbps download and up to 5 Mbps upload to customers in remote and regional Australia.
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released an updated Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA) to service providers which includes the new up to 50/20 Mbps speed range.
Originally, the company had limited the speed achievable on the NBN Fixed Wireless network to be 25/5 Mbps. However, according to the Product Technical Specification document, the equipment (W-NTD) installed in homes are capable of speeds of up to 75 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream depending on the equipment version.
nbn will begin to offer the 25-50/5-20 Mbps speed tier for the commonly used Traffic Class 4 Access Virtual Circuit, starting 1st December 2015. The company will also offer a 0.3 Mbps Traffic Class 1 Access Virtual Circuit — up from 0.15 Mbps, intended for low-latency services such as VoIP lines.
However, unlike the other Fixed-line technologies such as Fibre, FTTN and HFC — the NBN Fixed Wireless network will not offer an up-to 25/10 Mbps speed tier.
The company has been trialing the product since mid-May this year.
Make friends with NBN employees! They may be able to shed light into your pesky rollout issues.
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has published a page on its public website stating the terms and conditions of a mobile app known as “Ken App”. According to the 422 word page, the app will be accessible exclusively to some full-time employees on mobile devices issued by the company.
The purpose of the mobile app will be used by these select employees to “access information about the nbn network” as well as “raise requests with the nbn Contact Centre on behalf of friends and relatives”. The app can also apparently be used to “request for an email to be sent to a third party with information on the nbn™ network”.
It seems like an odd app for nbn to develop. Why create an app that is only accessible for your employees to look up and share NBN rollout information and lodge support requests?
Is the nbn website really that terrible that friends and family of employees can’t lodge their support requests or find the information they need? Why does it seem the friends and relatives of these employees will get preferential treatment and more information over other members of the public?
I guess this implies that friends and relatives of nbn employees will also have access to more detailed NBN rollout information and will get special follow-up treatment on any issues they have. I suggest you make friends with NBN employees quick and fast! #FriendsOfNBN
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released a test agreement to service providers who intend to participate in an end-user HFC pilot which is expected to begin on or around 1st November 2015. In the document, nbn states that they will use the pilot to “test NBN Co’s delivery of a Layer 2 NEBS to End User premises through the use of HFC technology, which will assist NBN Co to develop a commercial HFC Product.”
Like the current Fibre to the Premises network, nbn will install a Network Termination Device (NTD) at the end user’s premises. However, this device will only have a single data port for interfacing with the NBN network. The device will also neglect the voice port (UNI-V) found in the Fibre to the Premises NTD.
The pilot will enable service providers to provide trial services only to their existing HFC, copper phone line or DSL customers within the pilot HFC footprint.
nbn intends to end the pilot by 15 March 2016. According to the latest Integrated Product Roadmap, nbn expects their HFC product to officially launch in the second quarter of 2016. [HFC Pilot Test Description]
Cell Access Service will allow mobile carriers like Vodafone to use the NBN’s network to connect mobile towers. But has this come too late?
Vodafone has long campaigned the company building the National Broadband Network, nbn, to open its fixed-line network to mobile carriers like itself to quickly and relatively cheaply connect mobile towers. Vodafone and nbn had begun trialing such a service since mid-November in 2013. According to the latest Integrated Product Roadmap released this month, nbn intends to continue trialing the service until the end of 2016 when it expects to officially launch its Cell Access Service product:
The Cell Site Access Service will provide connectivity between cell sites and nbn Points of Interconnect.
The Cell Site Access Service will provide connectivity between a network operator’s mobile cell-sites and nbn’s Points-of-Interconnect and also nbn’s fixed wireless ‘hub’ sites where they are connected to the nbn Points-of-Interconnect by fibre. The service will initially be offered within the FTTP and FW footprint, with the potential for it to be expanded to include other parts of the Multi Technology Mix network in the future.
But is it too little, too late? Earlier this week however, Vodafone and TPG announced that as part of a $1 billion dollar deal — TPG will provide fibre for the mobile carrier to connect its mobile network towers for the next 15 years. It’s unclear if this is an exclusive deal where Vodafone must only use TPG as their only backhaul provider, but it may significantly reduce nbn‘s prospect in profiting from such a service.
Last month, I wrote about how NBN could transform the mobile transit market. While it may still ring true — with Vodafone now seemingly out of the game for NBN-based mobile transit — one must wonder how much nbn could realistically expect from its new product offering.
NBN may do away with the current per-Mbps connectivity virtual circuit charge for a tiered option.
In their latest Product Roadmap for October 2015 — the company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has indicated that they will begin consulting with service providers to change the way the controversial Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) charge is structured in November.
Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) is a virtual charge imposed by NBN to service providers to offload end user’s traffic from the NBN network into the service provider’s network.
After their first round of consultation in July last year, the company had decided to drop the from $20.00 per Mbps to $17.50 per Mbps (excluding GST). The company will now conduct a further consultation for introducing Dimension-Based Pricing for CVC for “eligible customers”.
Dimension-Based Pricing would effectively provide service providers tiered of Connectivity Virtual Circuit based on NBN’s modeled usage. As an example, standard internet connections may use an average CVC tier where as a more bandwidth-heavy application would use a higher-capacity CVC tier.
This is in addition to the cost of physical interconnect connection between the provider and NBN (called the Network-Network Interface, NNI) plus the cost that NBN charges for the link between your home and NBN’s point of interconnect (known as the Access Virtual Circuit and User-Network Interface, AVC/UNI).
The company also revealed in their Product Roadmap that they will begin consulting service providers about their future Fibre to the Distribution Point product offering in November.