NBN targets Australia's small businesses

Solo companies may not understand NBN benefits, says Flying Solo founder.

Many small businesses may not understand the benefits of NBN, despite many plans on the way targeting 2 million such companies in Australia, according to Flying Solo founder, Robert Gerrish.

At a media conference today, NBN Co provided more pricing and timing details for its business plans. It also emphasised that several ISPs will resell the plans targeting small, medium and large businesses.

While NBN has many benefits for small businesses, including increased ability to collaborate and flexibility to work in remote areas, “there’s a lot of people who just aren’t thinking about it yet,” said Flying Solo founder Robert Gerrish. “Overall, I think there needs to be a lot more education.”

Gerrish said it’s unclear whether small business will take NBN business services over NBN residential services. Companies based at home likely will go for the less expensive option at first, he said. “When they start to see how businesses evolve and how changes can happen will be likely to invest more.”

Gerrish said he doesn’t expect much impact on small business adoption should the Labor government loses power. “More than anything, small businesses want fast broadband. Where that comes from at the moment there is no great attachment.”

NBN Co’s business plans are segmented into three areas: business services, targeting Australia's 22 million small businesses; medium business; and enterprise Ethernet for banks, hospitals and other large organisations.

The program targeting small business addresses 70 per cent of the business market, said NBN Co manager of business products, Chris Separovic. It costs less than $100 per month and provides basic speeds, he said. Phase one was delivered in September and included a traffic class providing 5 Mbps symmetric speeds, allowing up to 50 voice connections and a broadband connection over a single connection, he said.

Phase two, scheduled for first quarter next year, is a “technical component” that adds a method of “marking traffic” for resellers, giving them “greater flexibility and control,” Separovic said.

The medium business program will cost $200 per month, Separovic said. NBN Co plans to have 40 Mbps symmetric speeds available in the second half of 2013 and 100 Mbps symmetric available in the second half of 2014, he said.

The enterprise Ethernet plan will offer speeds of up to 1 Gbps using dedicated fibre to the end user. NBN Co has not yet set a price and won’t offer the services until 2015, Separovic said.

NBN Co has not announced business plans using fixed wireless and satellite technologies, but Separovic said those are on the way. “It is not in the immediate term” but will be added “in the coming years,” he said.

NBN Co said that several ISPs will resell NBN business plans. Four broadband providers have confirmed they will offer business broadband plans through the NBN. AAPT, iiNet and Macquarie Telecom said they are developing packages, while M2 Commander announced its plans last week. AAPT head of product and carrier, Nick Pachos, said the NBN was critical to helping the company reach areas outside its network footprint with fast services.

NBN Co is “very much in the early stages” in signing up resellers for the business plans and “there are actually a handful” of ISPs who have plans in development or design stages, Separovic said.

As in the residential space, NBN Co faces a “challenge” hooking up businesses in multi-dwelling units (MDUs), acknowledged Jim Hassell, head of product management and sales for NBN Co. With MDUs, there must be an agreement from the body corporate, he said.

"We have a team focused on that, going around and getting agreement from the bodies corporate.”

To minimise delay, NBN Co is hoping to get many agreements before the NBN is actually rolled out, he said.

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