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NBN – Frequently Asked Questions

All your questions about the NBN rollout, plans, speeds, equipment and installation answered.

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General FAQ

When will I get the NBN?

To find out when the NBN is arriving in your area, you'll want to head over to our NBN tracker. By entering your address into the tracker, you can check its current NBN status, whether that be Ready for Service, Build Commenced, Remediation, 3 Year Plan, Wireless Tower or not at all. You'll find an explanation of what each of those terms means in the NBN Tracker section further down this page.

Do I have to switch to the NBN?

For most Aussies, switching to the NBN is necessary in order to continue receiving a fixed-line Internet service going forward. This is because, as the NBN is rolled out across the country, most of the existing ADSL network is being switched off. In areas serviced by fixed-line NBN connections, ADSL, cable and landline phone, services will stop functioning 18 months after NBN services are made available. This means that you won't be able to make or receive calls over a traditional phone line nor will you have any access to the Internet via an ADSL or cable connection.

However, switch to the NBN within that 18-month window, and you shouldn't experience any disruptions to your Internet or phone service.

Australians slated to receive fixed wireless or satellite NBN connections are in a slightly different situation to those living within the NBN's fixed-line footprint. In these areas, the existing copper network won't be shut off, and folks with a traditional landline phone service can choose to stick with it instead of swapping over to a Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service.

For more information on who does and doesn't have to switch to the NBN, check out our guide to the NBN copper cut off.

Can I still use my landline phone with the NBN?

Unless you live in an area serviced by fixed wireless or satellite NBN, the traditional landline phone service will be deactivated 18 months after you have access to the NBN (see above). However, that doesn't mean your existing handset is useless since you can hook it up to your NBN router to make and receive phone calls over the Internet. This technology is known as Voice over IP (VoIP) and functions much the same as the landline service it's replacing.

The only major difference with VoIP is that, since it operates over the Internet, its quality and reliability are contingent on that of your broadband service. A slow Internet connection may result in choppy calls or dropouts, and in the event of a blackout, you won't be able to make or receive calls at all since a dead modem means no Internet for the phone to operate over.

It's also worth mentioning that, depending on your particular handset, you may need to purchase an adaptor in order to connect your existing phone to your new NBN modem or router. Some NBN providers will bundle an adaptor in with their plans, while others may offer a new VoIP-compatible handset instead.

Do I need to pay to have the NBN installed?

While signing up for an NBN plan with an Aussie telco isn't free, the NBN installation process itself shouldn't cost you a thing. NBN Co – the company responsible for the NBN rollout – handles the installation of the physical infrastructure over which your Internet connection will operate. This includes laying down wires from the street to an NBN connection box on your property as well as installing wireless antennas for Aussies receiving a fixed wireless connection.

For most households, the installation process should be fairly straightforward and will be performed by NBN Co free of charge. However, in some situations, additional cabling or infrastructure work may need to be carried out, and this will incur an associated non-standard installation fee. Similarly, NBN Co will slug you with a New Development Charge if you're signing up for an NBN service in an area where no existing telecommunications infrastructure exists, such as a new estate or apartment complex.

There's also the possibility that your chosen NBN provider will charge a set-up fee for signing up to its service, but this is not related to the installation of the physical NBN infrastructure at your property.

What needs to be installed?

If your property is eligible for Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), you will need to have a utility box and a connection box installed. The utility box or Premises Connection Device (PCD) is installed on an exterior wall, preferably close to the electrical meter or distribution board. It's required to be at least 410mm off the ground and 250mm away from taps, drainpipes and gas, electricity and water meters. The connection box is attached to an interior wall and is typically located opposite the exterior utility box. The connection box needs to be placed first and foremost in an accessible and visible location.

Is there any difference between NBN providers outside of pricing?

Since all NBN providers deliver their service over the same cables and wireless infrastructure, it might seem like they should all be much of a muchness in terms of Internet speeds and reliability. The original framework for advertising NBN plans supported this belief, dividing different plans into four seemingly identical buckets based on their maximum theoretical download speeds: nbn12, nbn25, nbn50 and nbn100.

However, this approach was not reflective of reality since the speed of an NBN connection is greatly affected by how much bandwidth (typically referred to as CVC) a particular NBN provider purchases from NBN Co. Bandwidth determines how much Internet traffic that provider can send and receive through NBN Co's infrastructure at any one time. If a provider purchases too little bandwidth for its customer base, those customers will suffer slower speeds when they're all online at the same time.

To help Aussies navigate these confusing waters, the ACCC issued a set of guidelines advising NBN providers to disclose the typical speeds their customers receive during the busiest hours of 7:00pm to 11:00pm. These numbers highlight the oftentimes significant differences between NBN providers and allow customers to better compare the value of prospective broadband services.

For more information on these guidelines and which NBN providers offer the fastest connections, check out our guide to typical NBN evening speeds.

Which NBN speed tier should I choose?

There are four main NBN speed tiers, each of which is aimed at a different type of Internet-using household.

At the budget end, the Basic (nbn12) speed tier is geared towards the lightest Internet users. It delivers an experience roughly on par with most ADSL connections and is suitable for general web browsing, email and minimal streaming at standard definition quality.

The next tier is Standard (nbn25) which, funnily enough, is aimed at your average Aussie with relatively humble Internet needs. Streaming video at HD quality is feasible at this tier, though larger households will likely notice speed drops when multiple people are using the Internet at the same time.

For many, Standard Plus (nbn50) is the sweet spot of NBN speed tiers. It typically delivers speeds fast enough to handle multiple people streaming, browsing and downloading at the same time. It also tends to represent the best value for money, with most providers charging significantly less than they do for Premium NBN connections.

Big households, businesses and heavy Internet users will want to consider springing for a top-tier Premium (nbn100) plan, as they offer the fastest speeds currently widely available. Premium connections can handle streaming in 4K, downloading games and uploading large files like videos and work projects, though as the name suggests you'll be paying a pretty penny for the privilege.

For a deeper look at what each tier offers, check out our guide to the NBN speed tiers, or watch the Household CEO's guide to choosing the right NBN plan below:

What are NBN access technologies and how do they differ?

While the original vision for the NBN involved laying down fibre cables to each and every home in Australia, practical limitations meant that vision was eventually axed in favour of the multi-technology mix (MTM) approach. As the name implies, this approach uses a variety of infrastructure technologies to supply Internet services to NBN customers. Which technology you will receive depends on your address, and that technology will in turn determine the maximum NBN speed tier you're eligible for.

Read on for a short breakdown of each access technology, or check out our guide to the NBN multi-technology mix for more information.

Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)

Fibre to the Premises connections are the cream of the NBN crop. They connect directly over fibre optic cables using GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network). Customers eligible for FTTP will have an NBN utility box (or PCD) and an NBN connection box (NTD) installed at their premises to access the network. Access speeds achievable on this network range from Basic (nbn12) all the way up to 1000/400 Mbps, though we're a while away from seeing the latter offered by commercial Internet service providers.

Fibre to the Building (FTTB)

Fibre to the Building is typically used to connect apartment buildings and office complexes. Fibre cable runs into the building where NBN Co installs active equipment (a DSLAM) to deliver the final connection over the copper network using vectored VDSL2 technology. FTTB customers will need to purchase their own VDSL2 modem or use one supplied by their service provider. Access speeds achievable on this network range from Basic (nbn12) up to Premium (nbn100) depending on many factors such as the quality of the copper wiring in the building, distance from the active equipment and any signal interference.

Fibre to the Node (FTTN)

Fibre to the Node connections represent the biggest concession in the all-fibre dream of the NBN. Fibre cable runs to a distribution node serving a particular geographical area. From there, the existing copper network handles communications to each household within that area using vectored VDSL2 technology.

Hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC)

Hybrid-fibre coaxial connections make use of the cable network often associated with pay TV services like Foxtel. Like FTTN connections, fibre runs to a centralised distribution node for an area, but from there the connection to individual premises is carried over coaxial cables using DOCSIS 3.0 technology. As such, HFC customers will need a cable modem to handle their incoming Internet connection.

Access speeds achievable on this network range from Basic (nbn12) up to Premium (nbn100) depending on many factors such as the number of customers connected to the same node (congestion) and any signal interference.

Fixed wireless

Premises in the fixed wireless footprint utilise NBN Co's 4G LTE network to access high-speed broadband. A rooftop antenna and a Network Termination Device are installed at the customer's premises to access the network. The benefit of NBN Co's wireless network versus traditional carrier networks is low cost (NBN Co charges the service provider the same charges as fixed-line services), high speeds (customers can access speed tiers of Basic/nbn12, Standard/nbn25 and Standard Plus/nbn50) and stable speeds. Only premises within the set fixed wireless footprint can access the network, meaning it is less likely to be congested compared with traditional mobile phone networks.

How does the NBN affect medical alarms and monitoring services?

For the most part, the NBN represents a significant improvement over the old ADSL and cable networks. Unfortunately, this improvement comes at a cost for those who use services built atop the traditional landline phone network. Devices such as medical alarms, emergency phones and surveillance systems typically rely on phone lines to function properly, and some simply aren't compatible with the NBN's VoIP phone service. In these cases, your only real option is to upgrade to a newer device.

However even if your device is compatible with VoIP, there's another issue to be aware of. In the event of a blackout, your NBN modem will stop working, and with it, your Internet connection. That means any medical alarms or similar devices won't be able to communicate through VoIP for the duration of the power outage. This can quite literally be a matter of life or death for people with serious medical conditions.

To mitigate blackout issues, you can purchase a backup battery for your NBN modem which will allow it to continue functioning through a power outage. Folks with life-threatening medical conditions can also register with NBN Co for Priority Assistance, which can help minimise downtime when switching to the NBN or when suffering from service disruptions.

How do I switch from ADSL to NBN?

Switching to the NBN can seem like a daunting process, but it can often be as simple as contacting your Internet service provider (ISP) and requesting to upgrade your service. If your home is NBN ready, most ISPs will transfer you to an NBN plan free of charge.

To make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible, you'll want to read our guide on how to switch to the NBN. By following the steps within, you'll ensure the upgrade process is as straightforward and pain-free as it can be.

Quick Terminology

Rollout Region

A rollout region relates to a particular area's placement in the overall construction of the NBN. For example, the Brownfields Rollout in NSW Armidale 06 is assigned the Rollout Region ID 2ARM-06. However, the Greenfields Rollout (new development) "The Foothills – Stage 1" is also geographically part of the Armidale 06 (2ARM-06) Service Area Module. However, the Rollout Region ID for this Greenfields rollout is AYCA-SQ3NT as it was sequenced and constructed separately from the primary Brownfields rollout.

Access Distribution Area

An Access Distribution Area (ADA), previously known as Fibre Distribution Area (FDA) or simply Distribution Area (DA), is a geographical subset of premises serviced by a common interconnection point. For NBN Fibre areas, this is an area serviced by a common Fibre Distribution Hub (FDH). For NBN Copper and NBN HFC areas, this is an area serviced by a common NBN Node.

Service Area Module

A Service Area Module (SAM), known previously as Fibre Serving Area Module (FSAM), is a geographical subset of premises typically containing between 2000-3000 premises.

Fixed-Line Service Area

A Fixed-Line Serving Area (FSA), known previously as Fibre Serving Area (FSA), is a group of Service Area Modules serviced by a common Fibre Access Node (FAN).

Wireless Serving Area

A Wireless Serving Area (WSA) consists of a group of Wireless Sites (or towers) serviced by a common Fibre Access Node (FAN).

Wireless Site

A Wireless Site, sometimes referred to as a Wireless Serving Area Module (WSAM), is the area serviced by a single NBN Fixed Wireless tower.

Connectivity Service Area

A Connectivity Service Area (CSA) is typically the area serviced by a single Point of Interconnect, except for Interim CSAs. Interim CSAs typically share a similar geographical footprint to its permanent counterpart but are designated to an interim Point of Interconnect.

Point of Interconnect

A Point of Interconnect (POI) is one of 121 sites around Australia where Retail Service Provider (ISPs, or phone providers) connect their network to the NBN network to service end-users.

Fibre Access Node

A Fibre Access Node (FAN) is typically a facility (normally in Telstra exchanges) that houses active equipment to serve a Fixed-Line Serving Area and/or Wireless Serving Area. They connect up to a POI to provide retail services to end users.

Ready for Service

Ready for Service is a status given by NBN Co that releases a Rollout Region to Retail Service Providers, allowing them to connect customers to the NBN. For premises in the fixed-line footprint, the 18-month Telstra network switch-off commences on the day that NBN Co declares the rollout region Ready for Service. This is known as the Disconnection Commencement Date. Prior to October 2014, for fixed-line areas, this declaration was made once 90% of premises in an NBN rollout region were considered "passed" by the network. After October 2014, for fixed-line areas, this declaration was made once at least 30% of premises in an NBN rollout region had their external (PCD) installation completed.

Build Commenced

The Build Commenced phase indicates that NBN Co has approved the Detailed Design Document and has issued contract instructions to their construction partners to commence the building of the NBN in the area.

Build Preparation

The Build Preparation phase, for the Brownfields Fibre rollout, indicates that NBN Co has issued remediation notices to Telstra to commence remediating pit and pipe infrastructure in the rollout area.

18 Month Plan

The 18 month plan phase indicates that NBN Co has commenced preliminary designs in this area and is planning on commencing a rollout in the designated area within 18 months.

NTD (Network Termination Device)

An NTD, or an NBN Connection Box, is a device located within an NBN Fibre, NBN Fixed Wireless or NBN Satellite premises. These devices provide up to four UNI-D ports, allowing customers to connect up to four separate data services from different providers. An NBN Fibre NTD also features two UNI-V ports, which allows service providers to emulate existing phone services.

PCD (Premises Connection Device)

A PCD, or an NBN Utility Box, is a device located on the exterior of an NBN Fibre premises. It is the connection point for the external fibre from the street to the edge of the NBN Fibre premises. An internal fibre cable is then connected from this PCD to the NTD, which is usually installed inside the user's premises.

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