With so much noise surrounding the nbn network, it would be easy to dismiss the theoretical benefits while viewing the compulsory change as a very real disruption.
However, in Tasmania, the benefits are no longer theoretical as most of the state has been connected to the nbn network for up to three years. As regional sales manager for Vita Group’s Telstra Business Centres in Hobart and Shepparton, Adam Williams has noticed a shift in small business attitudes towards the nbn network. “When people first started moving to the nbn network there was a small percentage of businesses that saw the benefits: The large percentage [saw it as] just a movement exercise. What's probably changed in the last 12 to 18 months is that small businesses are now starting to see or be educated on what higher speed and better connectivity can actually deliver.”
Williams discusses what you should consider when deciding how and when to move your business to the nbn network.
Upload and download speeds
While most consumer discussion focuses on how fast you can download or stream a movie, the upload speed is potentially far more critical. “When we sit down with businesses, we don't just discuss how fast you want your downloads. What does the business do on a day-to-day basis? It's not only what activities you're doing, but how many concurrent activities you could be doing at one time that you want a reliable connection for.”
He advises not to decide future telecommunications based on today’s needs. “Believe it or not, most customers would, if they could, cut telecommunications costs. However, telecommunications are business-critical in almost every business that we see because—whether online, data, or voice—this is how your customers interact with you.”
Customer expectations are continually shifting as new technologies and faster speeds enable new trends and behaviours. “It’s important to understand where the market is going. What do consumers or customers need, how do they want to deal with my business, and am I setting myself up to be able to deliver that?”
Williams believes many businesses aren’t sufficiently aware of the opportunities presented by cloud computing. “Cloud computing is the future. All of the indications are that small to medium business are going to benefit the most because the cloud is scalable and you only pay for what you use. It’s really cost-effective.”
nbn-connected businesses could also benefit from greater use of mobile applications. “Businesses can upload loads of information in a short period of time, which allows their mobile workforce to be able to access information quickly and easily on the go,” says Williams. “For example, the ability to have trucks on the road [making] four more deliveries each day because they're not heading backwards and forwards to a depot.”
Don’t forget the nbn network will also carry all of your fixed voice calls as well, simultaneously uploading and downloading both sides of the conversation as data. Too many calls at once, and your ability to upload and download other data may be affected.
“A low speed tier may be fine if you're only having one, two or three concurrent calls,” explains Williams. “But if you're running a business that has twenty people talking on the phone, that's going to take up so much bandwidth.”
Many businesses are using the nbn network to enable a more flexible workforce. “Instead of having a call centre where they pull everyone into an office for eight hours a day, people can log on from home and perform the same role.”
The high upload and download speeds delivered by the nbn network also make it far more practical to bring a remote workforce together over a video conferencing platform. “We're seeing this even in my business,” says Williams. “We operate virtual teams, so I have daily team meetings with individuals located all over Tasmania, as well as Victoria and Queensland.”
Williams sees upload speed as a critical consideration when choosing a plan. “It's not only what activities you're doing, but how many concurrent activities you could be doing at one time that you want a reliable connection for.”
When the nbn network becomes available in your area, you will have 18 months to move across. While that sounds like plenty of time, Williams doesn’t advise putting it off. “There are 3000 connections that need to take place in that 18 months. This requires visits from technicians, possibly equipment to be installed in premises. A lot needs to happen. Get in early because nbn co are decommissioning the existing network. Despite best efforts, there are always customers who have left it too late and they're being caught out.”
nbn co will send you a list of providers, many of which may be new to you. Williams advises looking beyond simple price comparisons to consider the quality and reliability of the carriage service as well as their ability to help you achieve the maximum benefit out of the nbn network.
“There are a lot of offerings out there. Talk to a provider that understands where you want to take your business as opposed to a provider that’s just five bucks cheaper than the guy next door. Talk through how the nbn can impact other areas of your business: Productivity; the ability to help reach more customers; the ability to help increase revenue or drive efficiency. The customers who have those conversations are the ones who will get the most benefit out of the nbn network.”
When will the nbn network be available in your area?
Check the nbn Rollout Map at nbnco.com.au
Which nbn technologies will be available in your area?
FttP, fixed wireless and satellite connections will require additional equipment to be installed in your premises.
Fibre to the Node (FttN)
Fibre to the Basement (FttB)
Fibre to the Premises (FttP)
How will your business stay ahead of customer expectations and the competition in the next few years?
Could cloud services help you to work more efficiently and cost effectively?
Could mobile technology assist in increasing productivity outside of the office?
Will the number of concurrent phone calls increase as the business grows?
Is video conferencing likely to increase for customers and/or remote workers?
Which nbn speed tier will you need within the next couple of years (download/upload)?
More concurrent activities will require faster upload as well as download speeds.
Are your business devices and services nbn-ready?
(Not sure? Speak to your nearest Telstra Business Centre to find out.)
Is your modem/router nbn-compatible?
Do you need to replace any business phones?
Do you have security monitoring or back-to-base alarm system that uses your existing PSTN line?
Do you have an EFTPOS or HICAPS system?
Do you have a fax line?