The Australian National Broadband Network (NBN)

After reading many bitter complaints about the NBN I felt compelled to contribute my five cents worth…here it is.

The NBN, although not fully rolled out yet is, or will be, the carrier for all telecoms traffic but, more specifically, access to the internet.

I love analogy and I intend using an analogy to address something I see often, and that is the vitriolic attacks on the NBN for poor service, service disruptions and NO service. And before going further I have no connection with the NBN other than that I use it. My interest is in fair comment – and in my experience the NBN is brilliant.

I don’t think a lot of people understand how it all works in that the service, the NBN, just sits there waiting for us to use it. However, if we cannot get at it how do we use it? When we change to NBN we are not dealing with the NBN company (the people involved in the creation and maintenance of the NBN) we are dealing with SERVICE PROVIDERS who have decided to set up a service to ENABLE ACCESS to the NBN.

A further thing to remember is that TELSTRA, the national telecoms network provider – and historically (for many years I believe) the only phone service provider – has the biggest network providing access points to the NBN. This means that any service provider has to provide their own infrastructure to get to where YOU are and THEN provide further service to the most appropriate interconnect point to the NBN. This will more often than not, but not always, be via Telstra infrastructure (leased telephone lines and exchanges).

It should be noted that in Australia – a VAST, vast country – there are only 121 Points Of Interconnect (POI) in the entire country.  What this means is that there are 121 GATES where access can be obtained. You are unlikely to have such a point on the pole outside your premises.

Irrespective of Telstra any access will be via a third party NBN contracted subscriber providing access to other service providers who deal directly with the public.

One can see that if, at any point in this chain of interconnects, there is a problem then that problem will affect the end-user, or the subscriber, looking for telecom service.

When we (as Telstra subscribers) were sent our NBN router by Telstra in November 2016 we installed it per the instructions and suffered various outages and errors for a while– not a particularly big deal but the router kept losing the TELEPHONE LINE.  If you do not have a digital telephone line, then you cannot connect to ANY service provider. Again this is a generalisation because some providers are not hard-wired but, at some point, there are various interfaces – connections if you prefer – that connect your premises with an exchange which in turn routes your signal through other exchanges until it meets the NBN – at one of only 121 POIs in the entire country – and you can get out onto the WWW (World Wide Web). Not all the exchanges will necessarily be owned/operated by your service provider who has to pay a service fee to route his traffic through those exchanges (or SWITCHES).

It can be seen that it is not just a matter of YOU ARE CONNECTED TO THE NBN rather, it is a matter of your service provider ensuring that SERVICE IS ROUTED FROM YOUR PREMISES TO THE NBN.

Here is an analogy that may help to make sense of this.

International air travel is an established service deemed to be one of the safest means of transport available to the masses.

You have booked a trip to the UK and your flights, which include a connecting flight to the international terminal, are paid for and the dates established.

As the day draws nearer you have to decide how to get to the airport and you decide that, because it is a business day, you will take a taxi to the station and then take a train to the city where the airport is and then a bus to the airport to get your connecting flight.

On arrival at the transfer airport you have to collect your luggage and take a bus from the domestic terminal to the international terminal where you have to go through customs and immigration exit formalities before you can get to your flight.

Your taxi breaks down halfway to the station so you miss your train and, because you did not allow time for this you will miss your bus and probably miss your flight.

Is this the fault of THE INTERNATIONAL AIRCRAFT OPERATOR? Is it YOUR fault? Is it the taxi’s fault or is it the taxi driver’s fault? Is it perhaps the domestic carrier’s fault?

You get to the station on time though but you go to the wrong platform and miss your train.


Assuming you board the domestic aircraft on time but, after take-off, it is found that a weather front has moved in at the destination airport and your flight has to be diverted and you will miss your international flight.


My point here is that as long as the international long-haul flight was on time and kept to its schedule you cannot blame it – or its operators – for the fact that you missed the flight because, as we can see, a number of factors played into that scenario and the delay could have been anywhere BUT it is NOT the fault of the international aircraft operator that the plane has taken off.

When you want to blame the NBN take note of who your immediate service provider is and try to ascertain what arrangements they have in place for YOUR AREA in order to route calls from YOUR AREA to the nearest access point to the NBN.

Has your service provider got enough leased lines and bandwidth serving your area? Note that a leased line need not be a physical wire or optical fibre cable – it may be routed via point-to-point microwave links among other things – but it is still generically referred to as a line.

After taking note of this VERY BROAD interpretation of HOW IT WORKS, is the problem STILL the NBN? Is it perhaps your access or somewhere between your premises and the access point to the NBN?

It is a subject that is cloaked in mystique for the average layman and using that mystique, that lack of knowledge, the operators or service providers can blame anything and everyone except, perhaps, themselves?

An excuse that I read about was that there was something on a pole over the road from someone’s premises and, for want of a cherry picker (a lift platform), connection from their premises to the NBN could not be completed and that therefore it was the fault of NBN. I find that bit of mumbo-jumbo very hard to accept.

I see the NBN as the whipping boy for a great deal of incompetence and sheer bad planning on the part of service providers who may not have geared themselves to make the best use of the NBN for themselves and, more particularly, their customers.

This simple article is not aimed at the technical community – it is intended for the many people who – in my opinion – are being, or may be, misled by service providers. This in turn leads to people writing to the press and posting on social media CASTIGATING the NBN.

The NBN, on their own website, have more detail and another very good analogy for how this all works at .

Note though that if your service provider does not have adequate access, routing or bandwidth it will probably affect you in one way or another.

You cannot use it adequately if you cannot access it adequately. Access is down to the service provider to whom you are contracted.