NBN Co push back on USO over Fixed Wireless

I just finished reading NBN Co’s submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Universal Service Obligation. I broadly agree with the submission but wanted to expand somewhat on the question of whether the NBN Fixed Wireless is capable of providing a standard telephone service.

In my submission to the inquiry I make the statement that the NBN Fixed Wireless network can and does support voice services. A cursory read of NBN Co’s submission may lead one to the conclusion that the NBN Fixed Wireless cannot and does not support voice services.

“As described in Section 1.2, nbn has planned, designed and deployed its network outside its fixed line footprint to meet expected demand for broadband services. nbn‘s mandate has never been to deliver voice services in these areas, given Telstra’s contracted responsibility and funding for voice services” – see page 15 of NBN Co’s submission

This may be misread as meaning that the Fixed Wireless and Satellite networks do not support voice services. This is not the case. In a similar way to NBN Co’s fixed networks (FTTP, FTTN and HFC) both of these networks support different traffic classes for different applications. Traffic Class 1, in particular, is designed for voice services and is available on all access technologies.

NBN Co’s own website makes this quite clear as highlighted below  :

screenshot-www.nbnco.com.au 2016-08-04 16-05-54

As a result, RSPs can deliver voice services on the NBN Fixed Wireless and Satellite networks. The Satellite network, however as pointed in my submission and NBN Co’s, provides an inferior service because of the delay in transmission over the satellite link.

So when reading the NBN Co submission the above needs to be kept in mind – the NBN Fixed Wireless is capable of supporting standard telephone services.

NBN Co’s point, in its submission, is that the planning and costing of the NBN Fixed Wireless did not factor additional services being supplied over the Fixed Wireless network, especially for “voice-only” services (ie. where the customer does not require a broadband service).

It is the extra cost of providing additional Fixed Wireless services (including antennas, network termination devices) and meeting the service levels consistent with the Customer Service Guarantee that concerns NBN Co.

But the question for the Productivity Commission should be whether these extra costs for NBN Co are less than the costs of the USO subsidy being provided to Telstra. If they are then NBN Co should be funded to do take on this extra cost and Telstra should lose the funding. The net result would be a positive cost benefit.

Unfortunately NBN Co did not make this point. Hopefully the Productivity Commission will understand this and consider Fixed Wireless as a viable platform for the delivery of standard telephone services as per my submission. I am of the view that this could save considerable costs for taxpayers and USO levy payers.