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Business

NBN Co still puzzling over business roll-out

While the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is mainly targeted at homes, one of the big tasks facing NBN Co is wiring up businesses, schools and apartments, according to NBN Co's general manager of service activation and migrations, John King.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

While the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is mainly targeted at homes, one of the big tasks facing NBN Co is wiring up businesses, schools and apartments, according to NBN Co's general manager of service activation and migrations, John King.

Speaking at the Australian Network Operator Group's fifth annual conference in Sydney yesterday, King said that while residential products were rolling out across the country, NBN Co had not yet developed its "commercial grade of products" for businesses, schools, hospitals and other public buildings that would require multiple connections to the NBN in a single premise.

"We're working with the government at the moment to try to define what the public interest of those are," he said. "Most of our [central business districts] have a lot of big businesses, and we do want to wire those buildings, we just haven't produced products and the exact processes to do that just yet."

Premises that require multiple connections are what NBN Co terms as "multi-dwelling units" (MDUs). MDUs such as apartment buildings and town houses have been an ongoing issue for the organisation, with body corporate difficulties partly blamed for a low NBN take-up rate in the inner-city suburb of Brunswick in Melbourne. King said that NBN Co will be required to rewire every MDU, which can range from two units to around 400 to 500 units per building.

He said that body corporates were "not always the easiest groups to deal with", and often made NBN Co meet challenging requirements to get permission to install fibre, but he didn't think that the government should change the law to grant NBN Co immediate access to every apartment building.

"We actually don't think that [legislation is] required at this stage. We had some conversations internally as to whether we should go down the approach to do that," he said, adding that the $11 billion Telstra deal with NBN Co that will see the decommissioning of the copper network will motivate body corporates to get fibre installed.

"We also think that once that copper network gets to the point that it's going to get turned off, then they will get more interested," he said. "We're not charging them for it, so part of what we're talking about in our roll out is to do this at no charge for them."

"We actually think there's a lot of good motivation for them to do it and the small number who don't will change back over time."

Yet, Pipe Networks has previously warned that unless the government legislates to allow easier access to units, then NBN Co risks being exploited by body corporates that will force it to sign expensive licence agreements.

This week the Federal Government also quietly passed legislation that will mandate NBN Co to be the fibre provider of last resort for new housing developments.

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