​NBN database quirk hitting broadband resellers

The ability for NBN retailers in Australia to compete with Telstra in selling new services to the network is being hampered by an NBN Co database quirk, according to MyNetFone chief Rene Sugo.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor on

A quirk in the system used by Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) builder to connect new services across the country is hitting NBN resellers' new broadband service sales, according to CEO and co-founder of local VoIP provider MyNetFone, Rene Sugo.

Sugo revealed at a media event in Sydney that his company has been losing up to half of its potential customers coming to it with an NBN order due to the issue. In areas that have been notified of their impending NBN switchover, that figure is even higher.

The problem, he said, is that the government-funded company formerly known as NBN Co, which is rolling out the network around the country, currently only receives new NBN service connection orders from resellers that have an associated residence or business address for where it can send out technicians to hook up the service.

There is, however, one exception: Telstra. Because the country's incumbent telco possesses the geolocation information with which NBN Co drew up its national network map, along with the associated phone numbers within that network, Telstra can do what no other NBN reseller can do -- place new network service orders with NBN Co using a phone number.

It might sound like a minor oversight by the industry regulators, but, according to Sugo, it is seriously hampering the ability for smaller NBN resellers to connect new customers to the network within a timely manner.

The result: Impatient consumers are switching to Telstra when they get the call notifying them that their existing internet connection will be switched off to make way for a new NBN service to their premises.

"We're losing orders," said Sugo. "We're getting customers ringing us up, especially in areas where there's a shutdown ... that's a good time for customers to ring up and order a service, isn't [it]? And Telstra rings up and says, 'we're going to cut you off tomorrow, but how about you buy NBN from us?'

"It's a database issue," he said. "NBN is there, they're serving your street, but they force all the other carriers -- other than Telstra -- to use geolocation information to service you."

According to Sugo, Telstra's phone number database has been used to help map NBN Co's geographic information system locations, with Telstra the only player in the local market that can match up geographic data with a phone number and the physical locations of the associated existing pits and ducts that are so necessary under the Coalition government's multi-technology mix NBN rollout.

"Even NBN can't marry that. How stupid is that?" said Sugo.

While Sugo bemoans the state of competition in the Australian telecommunications industry at present, his company has high hopes to take its VoIP software to the world with international voice business TNZI, which it bought from New Zealand telco Spark for NZ$22.4 million at the beginning of this month.

According to Sugo, the deal will allow MyNetFone to make use of an existing network that spans four continents without having to take the time and money to build one from scratch.

"With TNZI, the beauty is, they've already built [the network], and it's a voice-trading business which is profitable -- barely profitable -- but they've got the people, the network, and they've got the contracts with connections globally," he said.

Sugo plans to deploy MyNetFone's software onto the TNZI network globally and start selling its software products globally over that network.

"We'll transform that business over time from a minutes-core business to a minutes as a by-product business to sell our software globally," he said.

Updated April 30, 9.50am AEST: An NBN representative has refuted Sugo's claims, saying that Telstra is subject to the same rules for placing orders with NBN as every other retail service provider.

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