SMBs are the NBN's sweet spot

SMBs are the NBN's sweet spot

Summary: With National Broadband Network (NBN) take-up rates among small and medium businesses approaching 90 per cent in some regional first-release sites, NBN Co is counting SMBs amongst its biggest fans, with those to receive services from those businesses likely set to gain the most.


With National Broadband Network (NBN) take-up rates among small and medium businesses approaching 90 per cent in some regional first-release sites, NBN Co is counting SMBs amongst its biggest fans, with those to receive services from those businesses likely set to gain the most.

Jane Burns
(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The figure — relating to SMBs in the Willunga, South Australia first-release area — came from NBN general manager for external affairs Trent Williams, as he fronted an NBN education forum in Melbourne, organised as part of the company's ongoing charm offensive.

"Willunga has shown that a lot of small businesses are a very easy audience to get through the message about the NBN," said Williams, who is among the NBN Co staffers moving through rural and regional centres ahead of the fixed-wireless rollout, to talk up the network's possibilities. "They know this is going to be helping them, and they see it as a source of competitive advantage."

One person who needs no convincing is Dr Jane Burns, CEO of Melbourne-based adolescent support initiative the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, who sees pervasive NBN broadband as a way of extending traditional support mechanisms all the way into homes, where troubled young people in crises often retreat outside the reach of potentially life-saving support services.

As a mother to three children aged five or under — including an older son dealing with Down syndrome and autism — Burns knows all too well the costs of inaccessibility to medical care. Experiences such as a $400 doctor's visit, after which she was unceremoniously told to give her son Parachoc to deal with constipation, made clear for her the cost for regional residents having to travel for even rudimentary support.

This experience — as well as a desire to ensure her children can access support services by the time they reach their teenage years — encouraged her to accept a nomination as one of 21 government 'broadband champions', who work alongside NBN Co to spruik the social benefits of ubiquitous connectivity.

"The internet is a significantly huge way of connecting with young people," Burns explained, presaging the creation of NBN-enabled 'virtual clinics' and school-based wellness clinics, to enable regular interactions with health professionals.

"We know that 70 per cent of them don't actually go in to see a professional, see a GP or see a teacher at school [when they're having trouble coping]. Particularly in remote communities, where there are limited professionals, you've actually got to get professionals online. If someone is in crisis and needs to speak to someone really quickly, [NBN-based services] could give them 24x7 access to support."

In a commercial sense for the GPs, new forms of patient interaction offer opportunities to improve the service for existing customers and develop service offerings to attract new ones.

Yet, not everyone is as eager for the NBN as those in Willunga, Williams admitted after being asked about a rural Melbourne-area council that recently rejected a NBN Co application for a 40m broadcast tower due to its impact on local amenity.

Citing the "fantastic" take-up rate for fixed-wireless NBN services in outlying areas of NSW's Armidale as a sign that the "silent majority" supported the network, Williams said that the network itself tended to silence critics once they understood its benefits.

"People are very vocal when they're against something," Williams conceded. "Typically, it's the objectors that are most organised and most vocal. But the more we get out there and present the facts, people are saying 'hang on, I do support this'."

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government AU, Health, NBN


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • SMB's are set to benefit in so many ways and a high take up is to be expected, with VOIP they will cut their overall communications and data costs. Would also expect them to opt for the higher end plans. Unfortunately the full benefits wont be realised until much more of the country is hooked up, both current and potential suppliers and clients. In the interim their total communications and data savings will add to their bottom line and there will be some improvement
    Abel Adamski
  • Perhaps they will be able to employ more!
  • I'm amazed by examples of how people are taking advantage of fast internet. Just recently friends of my wife have started home businesses. One has started a toy library where parents can hire toys for their kids, and the other has started a business, selling devices like bluetooth headsets to other businesses. Both businesses are entirely managed from home.
    Both these women have keen business minds but are also raising kids, so have been forced to stay at home due to child care costs.
    I think we will see a lot more of this in the future, which is great as it's good for the economy and promotes innovation.
    I know, I know, I can hear opponents of the NBN saying that this is all possible now with copper. Well to that I would say, both of the women in the above example have complained of slow internet speeds, and can't wait until the NBN is built as they believe it will help them expand.
    I think we are seeing a sign of things to come?