The Federal Government has announced plans to compensate retail service providers (RSPs) for the cost of moving voice-only customers from Telstra's copper network, onto the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Under the $11 billion dollar deal NBN Co struck with Telstra, Telstra's copper network will be decommissioned in NBN-connected areas, once those areas have been classed as "ready for service". This happens once NBN Co has passed 90 per cent of premises in that area.
In satellite and fixed-wireless areas, the copper will be maintained by Telstra for phone services, but in fibre areas, even if customers are only seeking a voice service and not broadband, they will be required to migrate onto the NBN.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy released today an information paper (PDF) outlining how the migration of voice-only customers will work. In order to ensure voice customers have enough warning and are able to make arrangements to move onto the NBN, retail service providers will be given funding from the government. The funding is intended to help the telcos manage the transition of voice-only customers who are still connected to the Telstra network, six months prior to the disconnection date. The telcos will also receive funding "to cover the reasonable upfront connection costs required to provide a voice-only service over the NBN fibre network".
ZDNet Australia has asked the minister's office how much funding has been set aside to compensate RSPs, but had not received a response at the time of writing.
In order to receive funding, the providers will have to promote NBN services to customers for a minimum of 12 months prior to the disconnection date in a particular area. At six months prior to the disconnection date, providers must give targeted migration information to their customers who will be affected; and at three months prior to disconnection, if the RSP has not completed its migration management, the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) can appoint a third-party to take over these tasks for the RSP.
After the disconnection date, Telstra will continue to offer "soft dial tone" services for 20 business days. This will enable Telstra customers to make calls to Triple Zero, the 106 teletypewriter and the national relay service. RSPs offering phone services through unbundled local loop services (ULLS) will not have this option, and migration must be completed by the disconnection date.
Overall, voice customers will have just over two years between the ready-for-service date and when their voice service on the copper network is completely disconnected.
Offering voice-only services has long been a hurdle for NBN Co. Until recently, users on the NBN would have had to use voice-over-IP for calls, but as of last month Primus has been testing software that will make it easier for retail service providers to deliver phone services through the UNI-V port on the network terminating unit, in an NBN user's home.