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iiNet: NBN still 12 months from a "tipping point"

iiNet yesterday announced an agreement with the Department of Police and Emergency Management in Tasmania as the preferred supplier for the NBN to provide a managed service connection for police stations in the state.

While the National Broadband Network (NBN) has now passed more than 72,000 premises, Greg Bader, chief business officer at iiNet, says the network is still at least 12 months away from reaching a "tipping point".

He told Computerworld Australia the network is not yet widespread enough for it to be top-of-mind for a lot of people.

“The NBN’s got some pretty aggressive timelines they need to meet – or ambitious is probably a better word – but I’d suggest we’re probably 12 months out [from the tipping point]. Certainly in pockets it’s obviously going to be a lot quicker than that, but widely as a community, I think we’re probably 12 months out,” he says.

“Over the next 12 to 18 months we will reach that tipping point where enough people are having to think about it and enough providers are in there offering services.”

This tipping point could be even further for businesses taking up the NBN.

While residential NBN plans have been on the market for some time, business plans on the NBN are relatively recent, with NBN Co announcing 'enhancements' to its business offering in September last year.

iiNet has also boasted it has more customers connected to its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network than NBN Co has connected to the NBN.

However, change could be in the air.

Yesterday iiNet announced its first major business agreement with the Department of Police and Emergency Management in Tasmania as the preferred supplier for the NBN to provide a managed service connection for police stations in the state.

The upgrade for the Department of Police and Emergency Management to the NBN will be rolled out over three years, with the organisation the first state police and emergency department to sign up for an NBN connection.

The move to the NBN will allow Tasmanian police stations to retire old hardware and will help police increase data entry speeds and allow greater volumes of data to be transferred.

“The reaction from our officers has been very positive and that’s probably based on the quantum of the change that they’ve experienced over a fairly short period of time,” Todd Crawford, deputy director, the Department of Police and Emergency Management, said.

"Some of these stations, Deloraine for example, has moved over the course of two to three years from a 512/128 link to a 50/20Mbps NBN link over a pretty short period of time, so it’s people who are used to pretty slow speeds.”

Other business agreements for the NBN could also be signed this year, with iiNet currently in discussions with other government agencies to roll out the NBN in Tasmania and other states.

Business agreements for the NBN currently only make up 5 per cent of iiNet’s NBN business, but Bader says this will begin to change once the NBN rollout reaches more areas.

In Tasmania in particular, which will be the first state fully connected state in Australia, he says as the NBN infiltrates more areas which have businesses and government agencies, the business side of the NBN will pick up.

“I think in two years' time there’ll be fairly significant changes to the way things operate,” Bader says. “For example, we’ve seen the explosion of hosted or cloud-based solutions. Once everybody has ubiquitous, high-speed, high quality connectivity, those things will become more readily consumable.”

Bader says there are different challenges of rolling out the NBN to businesses. For example, one of the most crucial aspects is when the time is right for a business to make the switch.

“No one is going to put a lot of effort into it if one of your locations is available for the NBN, but the other 99 per cent aren’t. [However], there will come a tipping point for all organisations that they’ll need to consider the NBN and consider the NBN from a simple business-value proposition point-of-view,” he says.

While the Department of Police and Emergency Management is now making the transition to the NBN, Bader says other organisations will begin to make the switch over the next year or two.

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