How to ensure NBN won't delay your commercial and residential development

Tommy Sailing

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s national telecommunications network promising fast and affordable phone and Internet services to premises across the country. It will replace most of Australia’s existing fixed-line networks causing a degree of uncertainty over the future of residential and business communications systems. Over the next five years, we’ll see existing facilities upgraded with NBN technology, and NBN infrastructure installed in all new developments.

Given the elusiveness of construction timeframes and the overwhelming amount of news and information on the NBN project, the process of getting your development NBN-ready may seem perplexing. However, it’s worth staying on top of the NBN, as its availability will raise the value of your property due to the ever-increasing demand for high-speed internet.

Engage expert planning advice early

As electrical and telecommunications consultants, we all too often see communications considered as an afterthought. Experts are not involved early enough in the project. Engaging an NBN design consultant during the construction phase (when rapid timeframes are top of mind), is risky. Designs may be unverified by NBN before the rough-in stages, or infrastructure may be unavailable in time for practical completion. These problems will lead to costly delays.

Whether residential or commercial, it’s important for developers to understand their NBN obligations under the Australian Government’s ‘Telecommunications in new developments’ policy, and to treat it in similar regard to electricity, water and gas applications.

Lodge your application

Applications to NBN or other telecommunications providers should occur at the DA stage of every project, along with the engagement of a consultant. It will ensure that spatial and civil works requirements are met, and the necessary number of connections is captured right from the outset.

NBN's new development team will assess all applications and determine if your development can receive a connection by its estimated completion date. If NBN is not yet available, it’s still a good idea to future-proof your asset by completing an NBN-ready design, such as pre-wiring the development with a high-speed structured cabling system.

After signing an agreement with NBN, the infrastructure must be designed by a specialist. Northrop is a listed organisation, and has the capability to design ‘pit-and-pipe’ infrastructure (primarily for subdivisions), ‘pathway’ infrastructure (for apartment buildings, office blocks, retail centres or single-purpose facilities like health and education), and ‘hybrid MDU’ infrastructure (for horizontal strata developments including townhouses, factories and warehouses).

Residential considerations

For residential developments like new estates and subdivisions or high and low-rise apartment blocks, developers may apply for telecommunications infrastructure from either NBN or a private fibre provider – such as Opticomm, OPENetworks or Redtrain (among others). We recommend choosing NBN for new developments because it offers residents the largest choice of retail service providers.

In preparing a development for the NBN, two fees are payable - the ‘backhaul charge’ and the ‘deployment charge’. Backhaul charges apply to works performed outside of the development boundary to bring the NBN network to the development. These will reduce over time, as the NBN continues its rollout throughout Australia.

Commercial infrastructure

From a commercial context, NBN’s various technologies represent a ‘baseline’ level of telecommunications infrastructure, similar to a fixed telephone line under yesterday’s nomenclature. It’s important to consider proposed tenancy requirements at the beginning of the design stage, so that adequate NBN services, including provisions for future subdivision or sub-letting, are captured. Gathering this information at the start of the project will accommodate the spatial requirements for NBN services in conjunction with tenants’ private fibre and dark fibre needs.

For businesses where private fibre or dark fibre services represent an untenable cost, NBN offers a high-performance connection allowing for a large range of use cases. Standard broadband and voice services over the NBN are lower in cost and have greater reliability than a comparable traditional copper landline service. Businesses with access to NBN's fibre to the premises may also reduce costs by using Ethernet services over NBN’s uncontensted traffic classes, avoiding expensive private fibre.

Northrop has strong relationships with NBN and can safeguard the best possible outcome for your development. Whether it’s a residential apartment or a commercial single-purpose facility, tenancy, factory complex or high-rise building – employ a specialist NBN designer to ensure the most attractive, marketable, and cost-effective option for your development.

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