The National Broadband Network is one of the largest and most complex engineering projects in Australia’s history, but how exactly does it work, other than giving everyone fast internet access? Here’s a quick look at exactly how the NBN makes a difference for your internet access.
One of the main purposes of the NBN is to make sure that service providers across the country are on even footing – big or small. Before the NBN, each provider would have to build its own network infrastructure, and the provider with the most money would be able to give the fastest and best coverage, which of course means a limited selection of choices for consumers in any given area. However, the direction of NBN Co., the government-owned enterprise tasked with creating and operating the NBN, is to create internet infrastructure that can be acquired wholesale by any provider. Of course, larger providers may well able to acquire more of the network – in 2016, three ISPs held approximately 80% of the market – but other ISPs have been able to secure their own segments of NBN infrastructure, offering consumers alternatives that hardly existed in the past.
Along with the usual big three ISPs taking up NBN capacity, numerous other providers have stepped up to the plate to offer NBN access. These providers offer different NBN plans based on the NBN speed tiers, which include the following:
- NBN 12 (Basic Evening Speed) – up to 12Mbps
- NBN 25 (Standard Evening Speed) – up to 25Mbps
- NBN 50 (Standard Evening Speed Plus) – up to 50 Mbps
- NBN 100 (Premium Evening Speed) – up to 100 Mbps
The NBN features 121 Points of Interconnect – 41 in NSW, 30 in Victoria, 22 in Queensland, 14 in Western Australia, 9 in South Australia, two in the Australian Capital Territory, and one in the Northern Territory. Each of these Points of Interconnect is used by retail service providers to connect to the NBN network, allowing them to provide internet access to consumers.
To maximize the accessibility of the NBN, many technologies are put into use wherever appropriate, creating new infrastructure as needed, or leveraging and upgrading existing infrastructure. The most common means of accessing the POIs through a retail service provider would be your usual fibre networks. Some of these go straight to homes, while others hook up to the network room in large buildings. Still others connect to the curb or an existing fibre node at street level. You can also find hybrid fibre-coaxial networks in certain areas, crossing over from fibre optics to coaxial cable TV wiring.
In addition, the NBN also offers Fixed Wireless connections, connecting relatively remote homes to the NBN via LTE, using similar technology to the 4G mobile networks that you may already be using on your smartphone – though it’s not quite the same, as the Fixed Wireless base station is immovable and for all intents and purposes is a landline connection.
Finally, for premises across the mainland as well as remote locales such as Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island, the NBN also includes the Sky Muster™ satellite system, which makes use of two advanced satellites to deliver internet connectivity to homes in those areas. Sky Muster™ connectivity is accessed by roof-mounted satellite dishes.