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NBN to limit maintenance during coronavirus network surge

Government-owned wholesaler yet to set contingency plans in stone.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Two charismatic gentlemen: Minister Paul Fletcher and NBN CEO Stephen Rue

Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

NBN said on Monday evening that it would limit the amount of maintenance it would do on its network as the company expects a surge in usage due to higher numbers of people staying home during work hours. To this end, it is limiting "non-essential maintenance to minimise scheduled, planned outages in the weeks ahead" to keep the network available.

The company said it saw a 5% increase on network traffic on Saturday, compared to the prior week, and noted its usual workday hours traffic is half of its 9 pm peak.

Earlier on Monday, Telstra said it was giving all of its home broadband customers unlimited data until the end of April, across its NBN, ADSL, and cable customers, as Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said NBN should provide pricing relief to Australian telcos.

"The NBN already supports significant peak hour data consumption, and for the time being, the capacity purchased by retail providers appears to be appropriate to meet these demands," Rowland said.

"However, if peak demand overtakes capacity, this may present telecommunications providers with a decision to either incur greater costs or to tolerate greater levels of NBN speed congestion.

"Labor considers these unique circumstances do lend themselves towards NBNCo providing retail providers with temporary and targeted capacity relief should these circumstances arise over the COVID-19 period."

In its statement, NBN said retailers should continue to normally purchase capacity on the network.

"NBN Co is well-advanced with its contingency plans and will incrementally increase its data capacity allocation to retailers to accommodate the expected growth in residential data demand," the company said.

NBN CEO Stephen Rue said the company had the backing of its government owners to do "everything possible" to optimise NBN to support the expected jump in consumer usage.

"In terms of the expected requests for additional CVC capacity, we will work with the industry to find the best solution. Clearly we all need to play our part," Rue said.

Chief customer officer at NBN, Brad Whitcomb, said the quiet part loud, when he pointed out NBN plans are geared to favour download speeds, rather than upload speeds needed for working remotely.

"When it comes to working from home you may have a greater need for uploading large files or joining Skype calls, so speak with your internet retailer to make sure your plan has the upload speeds you need to work from home," he said.

Also on Monday, a roundtable of Australian telcos agreed to create a working group to share information related to COVID-19, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said, who added that Italy had seen a 26% increase in fixed line traffic.

Retailer Aussie Broadband said it was moving to exclude data used between 6 am to 6 pm from any data caps that users may have, would temporarily stop any service suspensions due to late payments, and was looking to shift its remaining 12/1Mbps customers onto a 25/5Mbps plan.

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