NBN fixed wireless issues should be disclosed upfront, says ACCC

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NBN fixed wireless issues should be disclosed upfront, says ACCC

Marketing changes finally revealed.

Fixed wireless NBN providers will soon have to supply more detailed information about connection speeds and known congestion issues in a cell before a customer signs up to receive a service.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has raised the possibility of substantial changes to the guidance it forces retail service providers (RSPs) to meet when selling NBN services.

That changes were coming was earmarked earlier this year by the ACCC as a way to address the current situation where marketing rules largely only apply to fixed-line connections.

A small handful of RSPs like Telstra go above and beyond in terms of publishing numbers for the type of download speeds experienced on the fixed wireless network.

It appears the ACCC will stop short of making that an actual obligation for the industry, in part because it questions whether “typical busy period speeds” for fixed wireless overall would be meaningful in the sales process.

Instead, the ACCC is proposing that RSPs sell fixed wireless services in a similar fashion - and with similar disclosures - to fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) technologies.

Most RSPs sell FTTN/B on the understanding that, within a few weeks of the service going live, they will run proper measurements of the attainable line speed and adjust the retail plan attached to that service accordingly.

The ACCC believes that NBN fixed wireless services should be sold on a similar basis.

In a consultation paper [pdf], the ACCC said that RSPs “should have regard to premise specific information that fixed wireless network operators make available, such as maximum attainable speeds and/or whether the service location is situated in a congested network cell” during the sign-up process.

NBN Co is now supplying RSPs with congestion information, including on cells that dip below certain peak speed thresholds and where in line those cells are for upgrades.

The ACCC wants to see as much of that information as possible passed to the prospective consumer during the sign-up process so they are aware of what they might receive.

In marketing material, RSPs are likely to offer a disclosure that “could contain words to the effect of ‘actual speeds for fixed wireless services to be confirmed’.”

Where RSPs do have good information about a fixed wireless service, they will have to pass it to consumers.

They would only be permitted to accept an order “if the maximum attainable speed of the connection is sufficient to meet the off peak speed specification of the plan that the consumer has expressed interest in ordering, and the service location is not in a congested cell.”

In other situations, they would need to disclose potential issues and possibly persuade a consumer to choose a different retail plan.

The ACCC said that its decision initially to impose marketing guidelines on RSPs for NBN services had been positive, and had led to improvements in the way NBN services were marketed.

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