NBN Co urged to move into Layer 3

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NBN Co urged to move into Layer 3

For satellite and fixed wireless services.

NBN Co is being encouraged by a parliamentary committee to move beyond Layer 2 services on both the satellite and fixed wireless portions of its network.

The second joint committee report on the NBN, released yesterday afternoon, urges NBN Co to move up the stack, with the ultimate aim of improving capacity utilisation, data allowances and customer experience.

“The committee recommends that NBN Co materially expand its 'Layer 3' capabilities to better utilise satellite capacity and improve the customer experience,” the report says.

“The committee [also] recommends NBN Co use expanded 'Layer 3' capabilities to deliver a significant increase to monthly data allowances for households and businesses on Sky Muster satellite in conjunction with prudent traffic management during peak periods.”

It later adds, “The committee recommends that NBN Co examine the merits of expanding its 'Layer 3' capabilities to better utilise fixed wireless capacity and improve customer experience during peak hours.”

The move to Layer 3 for satellite services is already in-train; last week’s Sky Muster Plus service proposal will have to operate over Layer 3 (although NBN Co will continue to offer standard Layer 2 Sky Muster products as well).

Going to Layer 3 on fixed wireless would be an unannounced capability, though one an NBN Co spokesperson said there was no "existing plans" for.

"Sky Muster Plus will allow NBN Co to monitor data heavy applications versus non data heavy applications for Sky Muster users," an NBN Co spokesperson said.

"That means homes and businesses in the bush will have access to unmetered data applications including web browsing, email and software updates.

"We don’t operate our other [access] technologies this way as they don’t have limited data capacity plans and don’t have existing plans to do so."

Former NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow spent considerable time before parliament delineating NBN Co’s responsibilities - and visibility - based on the layer at which the company operates.

“We only go to Layer 2. We are only an ethernet bitstream provider,” he said during an exchange last year. [pdf]

Morrow continued to clarify the limits of NBN Co’s remit in senate estimates this year.

“There's such a misunderstanding on this - NBN Co provides a Layer 2 in the OSI stack level service. The RSPs then typically provide a Layer 3 service,” he said. [pdf]

Satellite operator Viasat was one of the primary proponents of a Layer 3 move for NBN satellite, and the company’s comments formed the basis of evidence cited by the NBN joint committee in backing the call.

The joint committee did not cite specific advice calling for NBN Co to operate at Layer 3 for fixed wireless services.

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