Regional telco review calls for expanded NBN wholesale offerings

Government should back NBN developing carrier-to-carrier wholesale products to help deliver better communications infrastructure to regional Australia

The government should back the development by NBN of carrier-to-carrier wholesale products that could help provide better communications infrastructure to regional Australia, a government-commissioned report has argued.

The government today tabled the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review Report.

Among its recommendations are that the government should "leverage its investment in the NBN by enabling NBN Co to make better use of its infrastructure in regional Australia".

Examples of such carrier-to-carrier products could include the use of the National Broadband Network to provide backhaul for mobile networks, tower sharing (including early co-ordination to boost opportunities for carriers to co-locate), fixed wireless extension services, and Wi-Fi reticulation in small communities.

There are opportunities for NBN to engage with state and local governments, partner with carriers seeking to extend their coverage, and develop wholesale carrier-to-carrier wholesale products such as backhaul as a separate business line, the report argues.

NBN could also support niche service providers in emerging categories such as those delivering narrowband network products targeting Internet of Things applications, the regional telco review states.

NBN has been exploring use of its infrastructure to help connect cell sites for mobile telephony traffic, including a trial with Vodafone.

The current NBN product roadmap lists the National Broadband Network cell site trial as scheduled to conclude in June 2016.

"The Committee believe these opportunities constitute a new line of business for NBN Co," the report states.

"This business could focus on those parts of regional Australia which are demonstrably underserved and where there is limited competition and therefore minimal distortion in the wholesale market. An internal process could be put in place to identify high value, high impact projects of this type."

The review committee also made a number recommendations relating to NBN's management of the Long Term Satellite Service.

The LTSS will deliver broadband to customers in remote areas not covered by the fixed line or fixed wireless networks. The first LTSS satellite, Sky Muster, has already been launched, with commercial services expected to launch in the second half of FY16.

The review said that NBN's fair use policy for the Interim Satellite Service, which has led to a drop in the data quotas offered by retail service providers, "has had unacceptable consequences" for end users.

"The recent enforcement of the policy has, in many cases, posed unacceptable constraints on users who are dependent on the internet – such as businesses and families with students engaged in distance education," the report states.

The government revealed in March last year that it NBN would introduce a fair use policy for its Interim Satellite Service in order to deal with the capacity caused by the uptake of the ISS.

NBN earlier this year moved to enforce the policy.

"To optimise finite LTSS capacity, NBN Co should actively manage demand, prioritise traffic and support the caching of content using satellite management best practice and innovative software," the review recommended.

"If restrictions on wholesale satellite operations preclude improvements to end user experience, those restrictions should be removed."

In addition, "NBN Co’s Fair Use Policy and wholesale tariff should be structured to give RSPs sufficient price and product flexibility so that the detrimental impact of shaping and suspension of LTSS services can be minimised."

"Further, NBN Co will need to work closely with RSPs to improve their support of LTSS customers. Customers should be able to monitor their data consumption and be alerted before they reach their data limits," the review stated.

NBN has previously indicated it will enforce a fair use policy on the LTSS.

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