NBN wholesale contracts near final hurdle

Summary:After months of changes and deliberation, NBN Co has released the final draft of its short-term Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA), and committed to an execution date of the end of this month.

After months of changes and deliberation, NBN Co has released the final draft of its short-term Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA), and committed to an execution date of the end of this month.

(Broadband image by Gavin St Ours, CC BY 2.0)

The WBA dictates the types of products and services that retail service providers (RSPs) can access on the NBN, as well as the terms and conditions for those services. Being a short-term WBA due to its new 12-month contract term, it will allow RSPs to enter into a commercial agreement with NBN Co while the ACCC reviews the Special Access Undertaking (SAU), which will set the 30-year regulation environment for the NBN.

This is the fifth time that the WBA has been revised. Previous versions of the WBA had dictated a five-year term, which had caused concerns from the ACCC. RSPs were not comfortable with engaging in long-term agreements while some aspects of NBN Co's business were still being developed.

In addition to reducing the initial term of the contract to 12 months, NBN Co has also established a bilateral and multilateral Contract Development Process. This process is meant to help contribute to a long-term WBA, which will be developed as the SAU is being considered by the ACCC.

The short-term WBA will retain the rebate that Internode founder Simon Hackett argued for in August for Connectivity Virtual Circuits (CVC) pricing — a necessary cost by RSPs to secure bandwidth to a consumer from a point of interconnect.

NBN Co said that CVC pricing would also move to a regime that stops charging when a service has been suspended in favour of a reconnection fee, and that it would become more lenient on charges for the incorrect call-out of NBN Co field staff in recognition that RSPs would be learning how the network operates over the coming months.

NBN Co will be continuing to seek feedback on the final draft, before moving to publish it as a Standard Form of Access Agreement on 30 November 2011. At that point, the WBA will have the regulatory purpose of declaring NBN Co's products and services as required under the Competition and Consumer Act.

At that time, NBN Co also intends to submit the SAU to the ACCC for consideration. It's intended that the WBA and the SAU will be aligned, but, if this isn't possible, the SAU agreed to by the ACCC will take precedence if it is beneficial to RSPs.

Telcoinabox is the latest RSP to sign on to the NBN, signing a wholesale agreement with NBN Co.

The company will provide a cloud-based hosted voice product called MyPBX to the small- to medium-sized enterprise market. It acquired access to the technology following a deal with Australian voice over IP (VoIP) provider Engin to gain wholesale access to its Broadsoft platform.

Although it is initially offering services over ADSL2+, the company said that it would be relatively easy to migrate to NBN access as it becomes available.

Network testing is planned to commence in January 2012 with an expected product release for April next year.

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government : AU, Legal, NBN

About

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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