Brunswick renters posed NBN challenge

Brunswick renters posed NBN challenge

Summary: The inner-city Melbourne suburb of Brunswick has gone live on the National Broadband Network (NBN) today, but has been afflicted by a low sign-up rate due to the high number of renters and apartment buildings in the area.


The inner-city Melbourne suburb of Brunswick has gone live on the National Broadband Network (NBN) today, but has been afflicted by a low sign-up rate due to the high number of renters and apartment buildings in the area.

NBN Brunswick

Laying fibre in Brunswick.
(Credit: NBN Co)

Of the total 2689 premises covered in the Brunswick roll-out, only 1405, or 52 per cent, opted to have the NBN fibre connected to the home. This represents the lowest sign-up rate for any of the first five mainland release sites for the NBN. As the suburb has a mixed population of younger professional renters and immigrants from Europe, NBN Co has previously blamed difficulty with getting permission from landlords and a language barrier for non-English-speaking residents as the reason behind the low take-up rate.

At a press conference in Melbourne today, NBN Co chairman Harrison Young admitted that part of the difficulty lay with getting permission from the body corporate of apartment buildings to lay the fibre into every apartment unit.

"For a multi-dwelling unit, you have to run wires up the thing and get permission from the body corporate, or, if it is a rental apartment, you have to deal with the owner of the apartment building, so it's sort of an indirect process."

NBN Co's head of product development, Jim Hassell, told ZDNet Australia that the company was still working on the best way to get all apartments covered in the roll-out, and said the company faced three layers of approval before it could go in.

"The body corporate is the starting point to get access. Once you get that, people have to agree to have the fibre come into their individual apartments, because we'll put a network termination device in the apartment," he said. "The third problem is a lot of those buildings ... have a lot of people renting in them, and so you've got to get owner consent and renter [consent]."

A big technical challenge was also posed by older apartments. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said this morning that the government had been in discussion with apartment owner groups about the best way to overcome the difficulties in installing fibre in the older unit blocks.

"Obviously, if they ultimately say no, this is not something we are forcing people to take ... life will go on," he said.

Conroy said that lower take up in Brunswick was irrelevant, with the $11 billion deal between NBN Co and Telstra to be voted on by shareholders in October, meaning that Telstra would decommission its copper network.

He said that it would also be an economic incentive for homeowners to have the fibre put in, saying that house prices will be higher for those that have fibre instead of copper.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that education would be key to bringing people in the suburb on-board.

"This is also the home to a lot of people who migrated to this country and who will need assistance in their original languages to understand the power of the National Broadband Network," she said.

Fourteen trial users have so far connected to the NBN in Brunswick, giving NBN Co a total of 114 trial mainland customers. Conroy said this number was deliberately kept low while testing was conducted, and that more will be brought on when commercial services begin in October.

"It's not open slather — it becomes open slather in October, and we're hoping to, by October, have about 200 people at each site around the country. We didn't want too many more in the first few days; we're building this up slowly."

Conroy hinted that telco contracts may lead to this initial number being lower than people expect.

"As people have made the point, people often have two-year contracts. So you may have it connected already, but you may have six months to go in your Telstra contract, you're not going to break your contract and take up NBN Co," he said. "So it's not like every single human being will suddenly decide they will take the new service from day one."


Hassell said the Brunswick trial gave NBN Co a chance to test out some of the issues that the company will face as it rolls out the NBN to urban areas.

"There was some challenges in Brunswick, because your access to roads is all different when you've got very busy built-up areas. The Brunswick route is all underground, using all underground infrastructure, which was already in place," he said.

NBN Co's chief technology officer Gary McLaren told ZDNet Australia that Brunswick taught NBN Co the most efficient method of rolling out fibre in areas with limited duct space.

"We worked closely with Telstra on the build there, and the actual way that we've designed the fibre optic cable, we've got a lot of learnings from that we're now applying in our architecture going forward," he said.

McLaren said that the company was now using ribbon fibre, which was 12 fibres in one. He said this allows NBN Co to splice (join the fibres to a connector or to terminal equipment) all at once, rather than individually.

"With a ribbon, you can actually splice all 12 ribbons with one process with the actual field splicer. So you can get a 12-to-one productivity improvement with splicing," he said.

"It is also a lot more effective in terms of the space you use."

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government AU


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Very interested to hear about the nitty gritty details of how the rollout is progressing, such as the introduction of the ribbon fibre. They might lead to incremental increases in efficiency, but over a huge scale it really does make a difference.

    I'm also very interested in hearing how the situation with apartment installations is going. This is an area where education is very important, and there's going to be a lot of preparation in advance of rollout teams to prepare apartment buildings by specialised teams.

    Sounds like the rollout trials are delivering valuable results as intended.
  • No one wants cable, thats what this shows, what a shambles, this government is wasting billions with this, same as they did with the BER, last i saw was 1.5 billion wsted on that, now this hard wired broadband. Everyone is going wireless and these idiots want to wire the country up, lets have an election before these fools do any more damage.
    • Peter... interestingly following a task force investigation BER was found to have been a success - officially...

      Perhaps you should stop believe BS and look elsewhere (ooh and opening your eyes might help)...

      Gee how embarrassing...!

      No one wants cable either you say, well I do. So wrong again - 2/2... at least you are consistent...
    • "No one wants cable, thats what this shows blah blah blah Everyone is going wireless and these idiots want to wire the country up"

      Clearly you dont know what you are talking about. Please go educate yourself on this subject and leave the ill-informed pre-rendered comments for sites like The Australian.

      "lets have an election before these fools do any more damage."

      Foolish would be putting any faith into whatever the coalition decide to do with the NBN should they get in at the next election.
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • Hubert, best that you educate yourself before throwing yourself in a lions Den. Fibre is the answer for a long term solution. Wireless & Extra terrestial applications will compliment Australia NBN Solution. High Density Wireless solutions are simply running out of spectrum in all areas for normal internet speeds. I love my wifi applications but I also now its limits. Which ever goverments remains in power the NBN rollout will swing Australia to the Modern era. Japan, Korea , Hong Kongs long term vision shows this. The old Telephony network which was once owned by Telstra is almost 1950's technology which has served us well. Time to move on Australia as the world is waching us with envy!! SMARTEN UP HUBERT!!
  • PeterGarn, are you intentionally trying to fit as many rambling anti-NBN stereotypes into one post? I think you win that one. However, I can't say the same for the actual accuracy of your comments.
  • It would be a lot easier, more cost effective, and get a much higher take-up rate if they run the fiber into the MDF / utilities room in the apartment block and had a powered fiber to VDSL2 link from there. That would still give each unit 100Mbps full duplex links. The could be spliced there and fibre run into the units on demand later if required. This is what they did in Japan and it worked well.
    • The MDU solution is currently at Tender stages. The Fibre component is always taken into consideration and already planned. NBN is currently open for tenders with Instalation Contractors.
  • They REALLY need to do something about rental properties, that is a major issue that people can't get this hooked up because of red tape. Given that the initial installation is free as well this creates further problems down the line if it isn't organised in the initial free period.
    • I think it's going to take some serious education of the various Real Estate Institutes - once they inform their members that property owners should accept NBN fibre as a matter of policy (and common sense), hopefully the word will get out. Put simply, (1) fibre will increase the value of your property for rent or sale, (2) it's a FREE upgrade - can't beat that price!, (3) it will cost more to do later, and (4) properties who forgo any fixed line service will become far less attractive to rent or buy.

      I mean, how long is it before we see "For Sale" notices in Brunswick et al boasting "high speed NBN fibre connected!" That will be a turning point - and it won't be long.

      When real estate agents are across these issues and can explain it to property owners, it will become much simpler. Of course... I am sure there will still be a few die-hard Liberal supporters, including some agents, who refuse to have that "socialist fibre" connected to their precious property. And good luck to them, if they want their political beliefs to triumph over common sense. They'll pay for it in cold, hard cash.
    • I have been waiting for the NBN to be connected for at least a year since the build started. To me it is a no-brainer decidion- I get a faster service for less than I'm paying for ADSL2+ now.

      As a renter in Brunswick, I can attest to the challenge of getting fibre connected in an apartment. Considering the number of approvals required - the tenant, real estate agent, landlord, and body corporate, the process is slow. Add to this that body corporates tend to be pretty useless in getting anything done (in my experience), and it drags out even more.
      • Are you in the 1st Release Site?- If so consult your ISP. if not just wait - more good news will come.
    • Give me cable anytime - with heavy $ caps on wireless (I have 2 3g devices with 2/3 gig at approx $40 each per month - always maxing out) - and the performance is just OK. I've had 160gig cable/ADSL2 - and an Ipad is usless without it (as Ios/3G is a pig)...

      It's a same that people arn't taking it up, but when I rent/buy an apartment, it's a question one will start asking for ("I only want an apartment with OSP,Dishwasher and NBN")....
  • Apartment blocks and rental properties were always going to be a problem because Landlords and Body Corporates do not want the risk of having to shell out the cash to perform these necessary upgrades. This problem is now being mirrored by their reticence to upgrade their building antenna systems to cater to digital television transmissions and how many of these places will be media dead spots once analogue transmissions are switched off, the same will apply to NBN. Damn shame.
  • I live in Brunswick and had the fiber connected to the home anticipating getting the service. Now I figured it would cost a bit more than my current plan but to go from 500 gigs to 50 is not worth it at this stage, if they would have offered an introductory price or some-kind of trial I would have been all over it.