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Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

NBN to give RSPs three month 40% capacity boost to handle coronavirus load

Australian telcos to get 40% more CVC from next Monday at no charge.

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Image: NBN

The company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia announced on Wednesday it would be providing pricing relief to Australian telco retailers in the wake of people increasingly working from home as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the planet.

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From Monday, retail service providers (RSPs) will be able to increase the amount of capacity they purchase from NBN by 40%, at no additional charge for a period of at least three months.

"Today's announcement follows weeks of detailed planning and assessment by NBN's engineers on the network's capabilities to effectively meet Australia's growing broadband requirements as more people choose to spend more time at home working, studying, shopping, and streaming entertainment content," the company said.

CVC charges from February will be used as a baseline and will be monitored by the company, NBN said.

NBN CEO Stephen Rue said the 40% increase was based on the bandwidth seen in coronavirus-impacted nations such as Italy.

"We're proud to play our part to keep Australians connected and productive through this crisis," Rue said.

"Data carriage on the NBN has already increased by around 5-6% over the last few days as customers have increasingly started to work from home. The NBN is performing well, and we have not seen or experienced any significant traffic congestion on the network.

"We are also mindful that these are unprecedented times and remain vigilant to any unexpected market and usage changes. We will continue to work closely with retailers to support Australians during this time."

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the changes were made to "take advantage of the flexibility in the NBN" as traffic shifted to the suburbs and traffic increased during the day.

"NBN Co has experience managing periods of high traffic, particularly during school holidays, and has in place processes to utilise latent capacity in the network to respond to changing network conditions together with RSPs," Fletcher said.

Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, who called for such pricing relief on Monday, welcomed the decision.

"Connectivity is vital -- whether it be for teleworking, telehealth, education, or keeping our spirits up with entertainment," Rowland said.

"This is an example of how industry can work together to support the Australian community during times of crisis. We saw this during the bushfires and I am pleased we have seen it again this week."

NBN said on Monday evening that it would limit the amount of maintenance it would do on its network as it wanted to maintain availability as coronavirus took hold. To this end, it is limiting "non-essential maintenance to minimise scheduled, planned outages in the weeks ahead".

Australian telcos have instituted a number of measures in response to the virus: Telstra is giving all of its home broadband users unlimited data; Aussie Broadband said it was moving to exclude data used between 6 am to 6 pm from any data caps that users may have and would temporarily stop any service suspensions due to late payments; and Optus said it would bump up mobile users data caps.

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