What will the NBN mean for your small business?
The National Broadband Network isn't just about faster web surfing; it's about new ways to do business.
The first major phase of Australia's NBN rollout is set to pass through roughly a third of Australian homes and businesses in the next three years, across both metropolitan and regional Australia. Over the next decade the NBN aims to reach 93% of premises with its optical fibre network, offering up to 100 megabit-per-second download speeds. The remaining 7% of premises will receive access to 12 Mbps connections via satellite or fixed wireless, with the wireless deployment already underway in regional Western Australia.
You're not obligated to sign up for the NBN when it passes your doorstep, but if you don't you might be forced to pay a connection fee later. The plan is to eventually phase out Australia's copper and cable networks, moving all voice, internet and pay TV traffic across to the NBN. A change of federal government might see a change in the NBN design, but the project won't be abandoned and there's a pledge not to rip existing fibre out of the ground.
Ignoring the NBN when it reaches your business would seem like a missed opportunity, especially considering that early NBN plans are on par with what you'd currently pay for a copper or cable connection. But the NBN isn't just about loading webpages faster, it's about making it practical for Australian businesses to enjoy access to a whole range of new services. It will also offer more Australian businesses the chance to become service providers, doing business with the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
One area in which businesses will see immediate benefits from the NBN is access to new communication and collaboration tools. The improved upload and download speeds of the NBN will allow businesses to take advantage of business-grade VOIP (voice over internet) services, cutting communications bills and offering the flexibility of a business-grade PABX switchboard hosted in the cloud. It will be a far cry from the current situation where the quality of your internet connection is highly dependent on your distance from the local telephone exchange and the quality of your phone line.
Voice is only the tip of the iceberg. The NBN will also make it practical for businesses of all sizes to use high-definition video conferencing tools to collaborate with colleagues or meet with clients and suppliers. This will allow businesses to make decisions faster and be more nimble, while cutting down on travel costs and ensuring staff spend their time more productively.
The NBN isn't just about getting more from your staff; it can also help you offer them an improved work/life balance. The ability for staff to work away from the office or even at home, via the NBN, will help Australian businesses adopt flexible work policies designed to retain skilled staff. The NBN will also make it easier for such a dispersed workforce to work together using the new generation of online collaboration and project management tools, letting them edit documents and work on projects as if they were sitting side-by-side.
Once you remove the barriers of distance, all sorts of opportunities will open up for Australian businesses. The NBN won't just make it easier for businesses to move large files. It will also make it easier for them to bid for international projects and participate in "follow the sun" business models which shift development and support work across time zones during the day.
Backed by the NBN, you'll be able to tap into new markets.
That's just a quick list of the benefits which the NBN can offer small businesses. Any one of these benefits could completely change the way you do business, but the true strength of the NBN is that you'll be able to enjoy all of them at once thanks to the fast fibre connection running to your door.
When the NBN rolls down your street, stop to think about how it might revolutionise the way you do business.
(Disclaimer: Neither David Hancock nor his business Geeks2U has a commercial interest in the NBN Co. or are contracted at this time to work for the NBN project.)
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of national on-site computer repair and support company, Geeks2U. Founded in 2005 and with a team now over 300 strong, Geeks2U is one of the biggest Australian businesses of its kind.