High-speed internet to arrive in Swan Hill mid-2017
- Locals encouraged to register interest ahead of activation of NBN
NBN expected to be switched on in Swan Hill around mid-2017
Avoid long "lock in" contracts and choose a provider offering 7 days a week support
Read out 2017 blog post "12 things you should know before connecting to the NBN"
Work on the NBN's high-speed broadband internet infrastructure should be completed in the Swan Hill region before the end of 2016 and services switched on around the middle of next year, according to speakers at the NBN information session held earlier this month in Swan Hill.
The seminar was hosted by GrainGrowers Limited, a member-based grain producer organisation which also advocates for rural Australians on issues such as connectivity to telecoms and internet. They brought with them representatives of the NBN (which does not sell services direct to the public) and harbour ISP, a service provider which sells NBN packages direct to the consumer.
How will it improve productivity and change our lives?
"Live. Learn. Work. Play" is the way Graham Soawyer from the NBN describes the new broadband network.
As a small business ourselves - providing digital marketing services to businesses in Swan Hill and North West Victoria - the NBN will drastically improve our working life every day. It will allow us to download images and upload videos for client projects faster while continuing to work in "the cloud" at the same time.
Contrast this with our experience today. With our paltry ADSL2+ service (6mbps down / 0.5mbps upload) we can't continue working while moving large files: we're forced to upload videos during a break for lunch or when we go out to visit a client.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was recently quoted as saying Australians will be able to stream something like six high definition movies at the same time but as a small business we were hoping to glean more concrete examples of how it will improve the lives of business and families. We now know that the faster speeds of the NBN will make things like "telemedicine" a reality and revolutionise distance education for isolated communities connecting via the Sky Muster satellite.
For businesses in town, as well as those in agriculture outside of developed areas, it will drastically improve the responsiveness and reliability of cloud-based services that we use daily to run our businesses, from accounting and banking software to platforms for transferring files between parties.
We can only imagine the productivity gains the NBN will bring to businesses which are becoming increasingly reliant on cloud services to run their business. With a cost of living and quality of life superior to big cities, and internet speeds to become comparable to metropolitan areas from 2017, could we imagine a scenario in which businesses will one day relocate here from Melbourne or choose to startup in country areas like Swan Hill?
Will I get fast internet by satellite, fixed wireless or fixed line?
There are three platforms in the NBN "multi-technology mix":
- Urban areas (93% of the population) will access the NBN through the fixed line network;
- Remote areas (3%) will access services from the Sky Muster satellite via a new NBN-compatible dish; and
- Australians who are neither urban nor remote (4%) - for example, 50 kilometres out of town - will access satellite internet wirelessly from 24 metre high cricket-bat shaped fixed wireless towers which have a signal strength of 10-14 kilometres (line of sight from tower to the customer). We were informed that if you are on the edge of the 10-14 kilometre range, a firm called Ubiquiti Networks has excellent signal extenders (also known as wireless extenders) that can be positioned at the optimum position to then relay a tower's signal to and around your property. It costs less than $200 apparently and you can have more than one to create a network of signals across a large property or properties.
Work to start in Swan Hill this year, open for business in 2017
Let's get straight to the million dollar question: the arrival of NBN services to Swan Hill. It took a couple of attempts to get a clear answer and the best we could ascertain is that soil will be broken here before the end of 2016 and the NBN will be available for use 9-12 months later.
A search on the NBN Tracker for our address indicates that the build will start and finish between July and September 2016 and services available in the first half of 2017. As we know, dates can slip a bit on such a large infrastructure project. Try the tracker yourself using your address.
Another key message from the information session was that you should register your interest for the NBN on nbnco.com.au now - even if services are still more than a year away - and you will receive an email notifying you as soon as services are available.
So how fast will my internet be next year?
So how fast will the NBN actually be? We're told that internet delivered from the Sky Muster satellite is a "game changer" for remote Australians. Satellite users can expect minimum download speeds of around 12 Mbps (upload 1 Mbps) which is around what some Swan Hill residents might currently experience on ADSL2+ and a lot better than the current Interim Satellite Service (ISS) download speeds of 1-2 Mbps which farmers at the information session said were horribly slow.
For people out of town connnecting via fixed wireless towers, users can expect an impressive 50 Mbps download (20 Mbps upload) provided they are within 10-14 kilometres of the tower.
As for fixed line speeds, and that's 93% of us, the details are a bit sketchy. We were told that they'll be a lot faster than 50 Mbps and continue to get faster as the technology improves but during our research it appears that NBN are committing to a 25 Mbps minimum download speed by 2020 while "aiming for" a minimum of 50 Mbps.
Note - Satellite and fixed wireless customers will have data usage capped while fixed-line customers will be able to subscribe to unlimited data plans.
We've also seen a fixed line offer from TPG with download speeds of 100 Mbps and upload 40 Mbps which includes unlimited usage, unlimited local and national calls and unlimited calls to select international destinations for $109 a month on a one month contract. They have deals as low as $49 a month and we expect other service providers would be very similar.
How do I get started?
Register your interest for the NBN on nbnco.com.au now - even if services are still more than a year away - and you will receive an email notifying you as soon as services are available.
Once you receive an email notification that the NBN is available at your address, you will need to research and select the offer that best suits your needs from a service provider, who will then contact the NBN to send out a technician to get you connected (apparently there are plenty of job vacancies for NBN technicians if you are looking for work!).
There are 8 accredited NBN service providers for satellite customers and currently around 40 accredited service providers for fixed line customers. You can access a list of them on the NBN website here.
Something to be aware of though are NBN plans that promise a certain amount of data, say 50gb, but only allow you to use half of your allowance during peak times (7am - 1am) and the remainder at off-peak times (1am - 7am). We'd say from experience that we're not likely to be organised enough to schedule data-hungry tasks (such as scheduling apps on phones and tablets to update at off-peak times), so exercise caution before signing-up for these types of offers which look better than they may be in real life.
So to wind things up, it's safe to say that we can rightly begin to get a little excited about the imminent arrival of NBN broadband internet services to our region. "Live. Learn. Work. Play" will become infinitely easier and more enjoyable once we're connected and business productivity will grow as a result.
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While every effort has been made to provide accurate information in this article this is not a definitive guide. Given the ever-changing landscape of the NBN and pricing plans, you should do you own research before signing on to a plan.