Business warming to NBN but most still unprepared for it



news Australian businesses expect massive change from the NBN and are rapidly warming to the potential role of NBN-driven teleworking, but most still aren’t ready for the changes the network will bring, a major survey of business readiness has concluded.

The Deloitte Access Economics-Macquarie Telecom backed NBN Business Readiness Survey in 2013, a followup to a similar survey conducted in 2010, found that half of businesses believe the NBN will “change the way they do business”, with 51% convinced it will help them operate in new geographic markets and 48% believing it will help them target new customers.

Interestingly, the percentage of businesses believe the NBN will help them better communicate with suppliers and customers decreased, from 57% in 2010 to 51% this year. Reflecting the gap between perception and reality, however, only 24% of businesses were ready to take advantage of this capability.

One such company, quoted in the report, is travel booking site Webjet, which sees the NBN’s increased bandwidth as a way of improving the overall customer experience. “The NBN will allow Webjet to provide a broader range of content than just the static content provided today, as the consumer will have a higher ability/propensity to consume,” COO Shelley Beasley is quoted as saying.

Employees will also benefit from the NBN, although responding companies showed a similar shortfall in preparedness for the change: While 49% of businesses believe the NBN will support teleworking practices to change where they can perform work – and an additional 25% say it might do so – only 29% of businesses are ready for this change.

This result is particularly interesting when compared with the 2010 result, which found that just 21% of respondents said the NBN would change their working model, 27% said it might, and a full 51% said it would not.

Clearly, time – and the incessant discussion about the NBN and its applications – has spurred many Australian businesses to consider broadband’s potential as a telework enabler for the first time. This is reflected in other measures from the report: only a third of respondents believe their business systems and applications are ready for teleworking, and just 26% feel their managers are ready to handle the operational change it introduces. Fully 70% of respondents do not have a teleworking policy.

Teleworking aside, there were some other surprising results: specifically, only 50% of respondents believed that the NBN would change the way business is done – a decrease from the 2010 level of 55%. This mirrored a reduction in the percentage of businesses expecting the NBN would change how it engages customers and clients, which dropped from 57% in 2010 to 51% this year.

Do the figures reflect shattered expectations on the part of NBN-deprived businesses, or just an indication that baseline expectations have matured and the NBN is being seen more objectively?

The report’s authors prefer the latter explanation: “While businesses may have been anticipating a significant step-change from the NBN in 2010, they may now be beginning to benefit from these changes, and so may see the NBN as part of an overall emerging digital economy,” the report’s authors note, suggesting that the actual delivery of NBN services had converted some of the network’s early mystique into more objective action.

“Businesses may already be implementing changes to their business operations, products and services that are expected to result from the NBN, and be further progressed with this transformation than in 2010.”

Contact-centre provider Unity4, which has 350 employees across operations in the UK and Australia, was one of many companies participating in the survey, and has put up its hand as an organisation that is well considering how the NBN will improve its operations.

“In the future we’ll be able to use voice over IP,” CEO Dan Turner offered. “Even though technically we as a company can do it now, the internet infrastructure of the country doesn’t allow us to do it at a high enough quality for our clients. So the NBN really gives us the ability to start using a more flexible telephony solution, it’ll bring down the cost, it’ll be a lot more reliable, and it will start to allow us to do things that we probably can’t even imagine doing now.”

Image credit: David Braue


  1. The lack of preparedness is hardly surprising – right now CEOs are asking their CEOs and advisors what is possible and the answers coming back are ‘tremendous opportunities once our customers have it, but over the next three years most of them won’t’. Until such time as the NBN has been mostly deployed and businesses can say with confidence that all their customers will be able to achieve certain minimum service levels (such as 25mbs down & 5mbps up) they will not risk expensive IT developments that may simply confuse and frustrate customers and employees. Sure, there are some forward thinking companies out there that are known for their progressive endeavours and even those who risk their very reputation if they slip off the bleeding edge, but most businesses are very conservative in their approach to new technologies – they will need to see a stable network that most people have access to that isn’t in danger of being sabotaged by a change of government before they will look seriously at new technologies and IT investments to take advantage of its myriad possibilities.

  2. It’s the old chicken and egg, as usual. In the context of your very correct comment, it might be worth discussing the potential effect on business plans if they end up trying to adapt to a broadband environment in which FttN has delivered quite variable qualities and speeds of service to different customers in different parts of the country.

    It seems businesses would have to play to the lowest common denominator rather than planning for the full speeds (up and down) of fibre. Wonder if there would be an opportunity cost attached to this difference in the network that’s ultimately delivered.

    • I was going to selectivity quote your comment, but then I realised the whole statement is pertinent ;-)

      What you’ve written is my major beef with alteration of the NBN as FTTH – removal or reduction of guaranteed minimum service levels. With guaranteed minimum synchronous performance that is not substantively affected by contention, cable length or quality, corrosion or even flooding, businesses and innovators have an extremely solid foundation upon which to base their projects and business plans going forward. Today you still have to account for people on dialup and a lot of people on dodgy mobile broadband. But what if 20mb/s was the minimum upload speed? Even 25mb/s download is a reasonable improvement. With such certainty you can develop portals and technologies that are currently only usable on intranets and dedicated fibre. True rich media remote desktop and virtual application delivery to remote locations becomes possible for the first time, allowing realtime collaboration between staff in a way that actually makes working out of the office a seamless experience finally.

      These are pretty unimaginative examples, but they demonstrate the kind of thinking CIOs are doing today. But they’re still only thinking, because until the services are ubiquitious and guaranteed there is no stable foundation, there are no solid realities to base their projects and forward planning on – there is only uncertainty and risk, and businesses aren’t too keen on that.

  3. Wish I had it at the office now. Once we have decent upload speed we can offer many services we cannot right now due to only a 2 meg uplink. Other options are too pricey/risky for us (limited VM’s in data centers and the like)… but alas, Tony only needs to not do anything stupid in the next 4-5 months and he’s a shoe in it would seem.

  4. We have so much uncertainty about the project it is little wonder. It is just irresponsible and reckless of the LNP to threaten cancelling a long term project and now delivering uncertainty in what the project will offer customers. If a decision has been made get on with it don’t go reversing ever decisions the previous guy made just because you have to be different to other side. Business will not invest if there is significant uncertainty about future market conditions. Why would a business begin to position itself to deliver services over infrastructure the other side has said they are going to stop building. Why would a business start investing in reducing emission when in twelve months time there is a good chance the other guys is going to remove the financial cost of doing nothing. What a disaster it would have been financially for the country if Labor had decided to can the whole GST and associated tax restructure just because the other guy did it, or numerous other longer term policy decisions. It is these uncertainties that cause cost overruns in projects and have a negative impact on business confidence.

  5. It occured to me today. Most Business which have fibre existing would have standing agreements

    What that means is they would be locked into existing fibre infrastructure unless the carrer agrees to transfer them onto the NBN. What could or couldnt happen until the contract expires

    You gotta remember if a customer got fibre installed 2 years ago. Its unlikely a business would switch fibre providers

    • From a business perspective large business aren’t going to switch their main links to NBN fiber but they will like switch their branch office connections from a DSL type link to NBN fiber once business style services are available. It will be a big change for SME who struggle to afford connections with decent upload bandwidth to carry out day to day activity like transferring large files to clients, using social media site effectively with video and graphic promotional material. In the last two weeks I’ve had to post out memory keys because my clients couldn’t reliably access the online storage to download their media( and that isn’t a primary task for this business).

      From a service delivery stand it does set the minimum bandwidth you can expect your clients to have when designing services for them. In the short term it could as simple as how you deliver product training or you systems of client engagement in the long term who knows what will be through twitter youtube and facebook might seem like obvious application of the internet now but they did require someone to come up with the idea and a critical mass of potential clients to take off.

      There is one other possibility that often gets forgot with the home vs node debate is that while both raise the bar for what the minimum users can expect the Labor FTTH NBN can deliver mult of these connections for specialist tasks into the home at a low end user cost. Tasks I can think of off the top of my head, the obvious pay TV delivery, dedicated data links for home offices either for the sole trader to keep the business separate, of employees and executives needing secure dedicated connections to the office network, specialist medical monitoring, and new offerings.

      To head down these paths businesses need some certainty on what the market will be able to access.

      • A great post Matt – I completely agree, the NBN for large enterprise is all about what their clients, staff and branch offices can connect to, what services and technologies can be delivered to them rather than them taking advantage of connection speeds and bandwidth they don’t already have (because they do already have it, and they’re not going to drop from mission critical dedicated 1 to 1 multi-gigabit fibre links to poxy shared spectrum FTTH – that’s not the point of the NBN, and in this sector you can see that thereis already a thriving ‘user pays’ market for very high speed dedicated fibre, and that’s never going to go away.

        But for small businesses FTTH will be game changing; it will give them access to customers and technologies that they could never have afforded any other way. Both for what they can develop and deploy knowing how their user base can connect to them but also how they can connect to the world.

        And that’s what so few people are focused on – forget about what uses users can put the NBN to, forget about faster downloads or even Pay TV. High speed fibre isn’t about what users can use today, it’s not about what services they can demand, it’s about it being there, about it being available and affordable so that businesses have the confidence to commit significant resources to development of new products, new services, new portals and new technologies to take advantage of what is essentially a huge, new, untapped market. The FTTH NBN essentially turns the whole country into the Wild West, and it will start a tremendous ‘land grab’ from businesses who wish to take advantage of this massive, new virgin market. He who innovates wins.

        But then, we’ll probably end up with FTTN in which case this is all just an unrealisable pipe dream.

        • Actually that’s what the unimaginative visionless idiots in the Liberal party and every other FTTN supporter doesn’t get. FTTH isn’t just another connection methodology. Ubiquitous, reliable, high speed broadband can only be delivered via fibre, and what it gives us as a country is opportunity. FTTH is like Kickstarter for the whole country. It provides us with an environment of stimulus, that provides business with new markets and ways of operating and the rock-solid foundation required for confidence in innovation. It will be like a rocket under GDP growth. If the Liberal party were really interested in stimulating the economy they would be diving into the ALP vision for FTTH with gusto, because thinking about the NBN in terms of the telco market is extraordinarily short sighted – wholesale telco is chump change compared to the growth and stimulus it will provide to the whole economy.

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