Retailers told to speed test for NBN fibre to the node

It will be up to retailers to ensure they aren't misleading customers on FttN speeds, with NBN Co planning to offer retailers speed testing tools for premises connected via fibre to the node.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

In a bid to prevent retail service providers advertising download speeds on fibre to the node connections on the National Broadband Network that cannot achieve those speeds, NBN Co will offer speed testing tools to retailers.

Under the multi-technology mix model of the NBN under the Coalition government fibre to the node will likely form a major part of the network.

As NBN Co works to negotiate access to the copper lines owned by Telstra, the company has been scoping out with the retail service providers on potential product options on both FttN and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC).

In an early discussion paper to the company's product development forum, NBN Co flagged that it would retain the fibre to the premises speed tiers — 12Mbps/1Mbps, 25Mbps/5Mbps, 50Mbps/20Mbps, and 100Mbps/40Mbps — on fibre to the node, but indicated that the latter two tiers would be advertised as offering speeds "up to" the speeds represented, with fibre to the node often unable to offer the top tier speeds on VDSL over the copper lines.

This resulted in the ACCC admitting in June that such representations could be construed as misleading to consumers.

"At its face, that would be misleading," ACCC chair Rod Sims said at the time.

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow said in July that NBN Co was working to clarify how to best advertise the top two products, and in answer to a question on notice from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, the ACCC said NBN Co would offer speed testing tools to retailers.

"The ACCC understands that NBN Co is developing a service to allow RSPs to estimate the available data rate of FttN to particular premises at the time of qualifying a service," the ACCC said.

The commission said that even with fibre to the premises, retailers cannot often be certain of the speeds delivered by NBN Co at all times to individual premises, with NBN Co's speeds defined as "best efforts", with network contention being an issue from time to time.

It was up to the retailers to ensure they would not mislead customers on advertising broadband speeds.

"It is the responsibility of retail service providers to ensure that advertised data transfer rates are not misleading or deceptive. In an FttN environment, the ACCC would expect that RSPs use any network testing service from NBN Co and consult the relevant service standards to understand the capability of any FttN access product NBN Co supplies."

The ACCC has previously released information papers of speed plans for ADSL, HFC and FttP, but the commission said that it had no intention to release a similar paper for FttN because the ACCC's approach to broadband speed advertising remains the same across all technologies.

ZDNet revealed last week that NBN Co has now approached retailers on its planned products for the HFC networks, with the view to keep the existing speed tiers, and install nodes on the networks to reduce contention.

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