NBN 101: The Internet or applications?

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A consultation paper released by NBN Co last year suggested a single customer would have the ability to sign up to multiple service providers despite only having a single fibre connection. At its simplest, this means customers will no longer have to choose a single service provider as a way of getting access to all of their desired applications. In order to get Foxtel, an IPTV package or a particular VoIP product, customers will no longer have to stick to one provider; instead, they would be able to pick and choose at will, tailoring specific application packages to their needs rather than relying on pre-built packages targeted at wider demographics.

This has enormous ramifications for competition in the industry but, more importantly, makes the aforementioned private networks between homes and businesses actually possible without installing a second connection. Rather than waiting the weeks often required to churn between single service providers, all it requires is the click of a button.

Varied vendors have speculated about the ability to minimise in-hospital recovery by simply setting up a temporary connection to the patient's household, allowing for remote monitoring with assured bandwidth. The health and education benefits proffered in recent advertisements about the NBN could conceivably be delivered within the home as an additional, on-demand service to the main Internet connection in a given home.

Next up: What does it all mean for consumers?

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A chance for innovation

During the course of Senate select committee hearings and varied other public and industry consultations, NBN Co discussed its role in creating what it called a Layer 2 network. According to the industry standard OSI model, that means the wholesaler is committed to building both the physical - the fibre/wireless/satellite access points themselves - and the data link layer - the infrastructure that actually activates the Ethernet for data transfer. The wholesaler will provide some multicasting capabilities - technically part of Layer 3 - to facilitate IPTV but it will, by and large, stick to the physical and basic data transfer aspects of the network in order to avoid “a lack of competitive differentiation and limited scope for innovation”.

But, at the end of the day, NBN Co is a wholesaler, not a service provider. The network itself will be little more than a box on the wall and an Ethernet port.

What happens on that network is up to the service providers.

The potential for bundles of services, exciting new applications and savings on the monthly bill through price decreases driven by the competition created among multiple RSPs should be a highly attractive prospect for consumers, businesses and society at large. There are certainly plenty of different applications that the NBN may make possible or, at the very least, improve through greater bandwidth and network ubiquity. The use of private networks is also a key note, and one that should have enterprises providing new opportunities for their workers.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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