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Understanding the NBN

Frequently asked questions about the national broadband network.

closeup of ethernet cable connections and fibre optics
Last updated: 19 September 2019

The technical jargon around the NBN can be baffling. We believe you shouldn't need an engineering degree to read up on it.

To help you decode some of the facts about the NBN, we've put together this round-up of some key questions about the network, such as the various technologies used in the rollout, what you need to do to prepare, when you'll get it, how to pick the best NBN plan and who to complain to when things go wrong.

The NBN explained

The NBN is the new national broadband network, intended to give Australians access to faster internet. 

It's a multi-technology mix (MTM) network, which means a variety of technologies are being used to connect it to premises, including fibre optic cable, copper wire and pay TV networks, as well as fixed wireless and satellite in rural and regional areas.

NBN technologies

The NBN is a multi technology mix (MTM). The technology your premises is connected to will depend on a few factors, but predominantly it's what NBN Co decides is cost and time effective in your area.

Because of this MTM approach, not all NBN connections are the same.

Choosing an NBN plan

When choosing a plan, there are a few things to consider aside from price, such as: 

  • How much data you'll need
  • What speed you'll need
  • Customer satisfaction with the provider

NBN Co, internet providers and you

People often get confused about who to contact when they have a problem with their NBN connection: NBN Co or their internet service provider (ISP).

After all, when you're getting connected you might have a lot of contact with one or more NBN contractors and assume that relationship would continue after your installation.

In reality, the NBN is like the electricity grid. Once it's connected to a building, you should only need to talk to your provider.

So, while NBN Co is often in the media spotlight, once your premises is connected to the network you should have little to do with it personally.

NBN Co is a wholesaler

As the network provider, NBN Co sells capacity directly to ISPs, such as Telstra and iiNet. These providers then use this network access to sell plans to you.

Sometimes, larger providers such as Telstra re-sell their capacity to smaller providers who can't buy enough directly from NBN Co to make it worthwhile.

Before the NBN, telecommunication networks were wholly or partly owned by the providers themselves, and Telstra owned the lion's share.

What do I have to do?

While NBN Co will be responsible for your connection timeframes, there are still some responsibilities on your end.

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