NBN Co will ease any temporary burden on internet providers in the next few months caused by an anticipated upswell in people working from home by waiving charges for up to 40 percent extra bandwidth.
From Monday, retail service providers will be able to access the extra bandwidth on an “as required” basis.
What this should mean for end users is no noticeable change to the performance of their internet services, even if they wind up being used a whole lot more.
NBN Co sells bandwidth in the form of CVC - connectivity virtual circuit. This is a fee for offloading traffic from the NBN to the service provider’s network.
RSPs that take up the temporary offer will pay the same rate for CVC as they did in February.
“We will set the CVC usage charges applied in February 2020 as the baseline, waiving any additional changes for overage that would otherwise be incurred by RSPs over the next three months, and will continue to monitor the situation in terms of any further decision making required,” NBN Co said.
NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue said the amount of CVC boost “is equivalent to the higher end of increased data bandwidth requirements that we have seen in countries such as Italy, which have mandated work from home arrangements.”
Rue said NBN Co had been in “regular talks with retailers over the past couple of weeks to understand the wholesale network support they require to meet the needs of more Australians working from home and as individuals, couples and families across the nation are spending more time at home”.
iTnews understands that the temporary discount will be backdated to apply from the end of each RSP's last billing cycle, meaning they won't be impacted by any traffic growth experienced so far.
RSPs must opt-in to accept the temporary offer and can then place forward orders for CVC in the same way they usually would.
If their CVC needs in a given connectivity service area (CSA) are above that of February, the extra costs that would have been incurred are temporarily waived.
The plan was immediately welcomed by RSPs, including Aussie Broadband.
“It’s great to see NBN supporting the industry and the community if the demand for bandwidth spikes upwards during this crisis,” Aussie Broadband’s managing director Phillip Britt told iTnews.
“Currently, we’re not seeing the need right at this instant for an extra 40 percent of bandwidth, but if it does rise, it gives us and other telcos peace of mind that we can deal with it without incurring extra costs.”
Britt said NBN Co’s move would give the industry some breathing space “to allow us to focus on other critical issues, like providing customer service when call centre staff have to work from home.”
“I think this move by NBN Co shows great leadership in helping to provide certainty to telcos and to their customers,” he added.
“In a time of crisis, certainty is invaluable.”
The CVC bonus applies across all NBN access technologies.
Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said NBN Co had “moved quickly to implement new arrangements to support the productivity and connectivity needs of Australians amid the necessary community response to COVID-19.”
“The network has been accommodating increased traffic of five to six per cent in recent days,” Fletcher said.
“NBN Co is confident in its ability to continue to manage and optimise its network with the expectation that it will see further traffic increases, in line with changes seen in other countries such as Italy.
“NBN Co has experience managing periods of high traffic, particularly during school holidays, and has in place processes to utilise latent capacity in the network to respond to changing network conditions together with RSPs.”
NBN Co had been under pressure from some quarters of the industry to shield RSPs from an anticipated rise in the cost of supplying internet services as more people stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mobile infrastructure operators have already acted with extra quota and phone calls on offer to cushion impacts through April.
Recognising that all telecommunications players may have to do their part, entrepreneur Bevan Slattery has also called on streaming services to consider reducing their bandwidth consumption, freeing up capacity on strained residential connections.