$10 a month could fix slow speeds, but telcos lobby NBN to drop prices

$10 a month could fix slow speeds, but telcos lobby NBN to drop prices
$10 a month could fix slow speeds, but telcos lobby NBN to drop prices

Amid the blame game between NBN Co and telecom companies over slow broadband speeds, the problem has a cheap fix.

If telcos paid just $9.75 extra a month per connection, speeds for the National Broadband Network would vastly improve, an analysis by The Australian suggests.

But telecom companies are more focussed on pressuring the network to drop charges to increase profits at taxpayers’ expense, the article in The Australian said.

Here’s how it works.

NBN Co charges telcos an access virtual circuit, or AVC, charge per user per month, based on whether the user is connecte­d to a maximum speed connection of 12 megabits per ­second, 25Mbps, 50Mbps or 100Mbps.

It also charges a bandwidth fee known as CVC — connectivity virtual­ circuit — which is the amount of data that flows to those connections.

The NBN pricing is already high by international comparisons because the network is using the charges to make repayments and a return on the federal government’s $49 billion investment.

On average, nationwide, telcos buy just 1Mbps of CVC.

This means that if every home were using the NBN at the same time they would each achieve speeds of just 1Mbps, well below under most ADSL connections.

Telcos can operate effectively buying bandwidth at lower levels than advertised speeds because not all users are online at the same time. But during peak times when most users might be online, the very low level of bandwidth being purchased under the NBN is seriously affecting speeds, said the analysis.

This is even after NBN Co cutting prices for 1Mbps of CVC per user per month to $14.25 from $21.

On June 1, NBN Co offered incentives for telcos to buy more bandwidth per customer. While 1Mbps per user per month costs $14.25, 2Mbps costs $20.50 and 3Mbps costs $24, meaning bandwidth, and so peak speeds, would triple if telcos paid an extra $9.75 per user per month.

However, despite the low costs to fix the bandwidth issue, especially during peak hours, the telcos are refusing to buy more capacity and focussing on lobbying NBN Co for further price cuts.

The issue is particularly pointed for Telstra and Optus, which between them control more than 60 per cent of all NBN connect­ions, because they are being paid $9.8 billion of taxpayer funds — $1,400 a customer — up to 2020 to compensate for customers mig­rating from their cable networks.

NBN connections were slow — in many cases slower than ADSL and cable  — because of the price war between the telecom companies and their reluctance to buy ­adequate bandwidth, according to telecommunications expert and Launtel chief executive Damian Ivereigh.

“Because there are so many cheaper plans, the (telcos) are refusing­ to put their prices up because­ they are afraid to lose market share,” Ivereigh said.

“We are not talking about a lot of money — for about $10 a month they could fix this whole thing.”

He said it was difficult for telcos to charge more for NBN connections because customers were used to paying low prices for ADSL and historically, technology and teleph­ony charges had gone down.

In spite of this, in order to fund the massive cost of the NBN, charges would have to rise because of the federal government’s nearly $50 billion investment in NBN Co.

The silver lining, according to him was that ultimately, while internet costs would be higher, NBN speeds would be well above ADSL.

Around 40 percent of eligible households have chosen not to connect to the network and economic modelling shows that subsidising the NBN is key to encouraging more Australians to connect. 

Recently, NBN chief executive Bill Morrow said the company was facing an image problem and the company was reviewing its pricing model.

Both Telstra and Optus did not disclose the average amount of bandwidth they purchased per customer, however, experts said it was close to the industry average of 1Mbps per user per month.

Both telcos said the money they received for NBN connections was compensation for the federal government taking control of their expensive high-speed internet cable networks in each of the capital cities, except for Darwin and Hobart.

A Telstra spokesman said the group received payments from the federal government for every cable customer within NBN coverage and it was expected to have a negative earnings impact to the tune of $2 billion-$3 billion.

An Optus spokeswoman said the $1400-odd per cable customer payments it received were compensation for “significant histor­ical investments” Optus had made in its cable network.

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Households Nbn

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