Monday, 5 November 2012

NBN: changing-over to Fibre isn't compulsory, but inevitable. What's in store for Telstra and customers?

People don't have to convert immediately from the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), but it's in their immediate future when the NBN is turned on in their area: Telstra is allowed and expected to decommission their copper network and supporting voice-only exchanges (making a lot of rack-space available in exchanges and creating tonnes of scrap copper).

So what's in store for both the long-term phone service supplier and voice-only customers?

It's in Telstra's interests to remove equipment from its exchanges as quickly as possibly, opening up the floor-space for other uses, including commercial leasing, not that they appear to be going there. They also gain by reducing maintenance on copper early, not to mention pulling out what they can for scrap.

Telstra could transition from exchanges early by replacing selected exchanges with modern VoIP equipment. They'll be doing this for 10+ years, so why not move to an all Internet infrastructure early?

As a bonus, Telstra gets to turn off competitor ADSL equipment, removing some competition.
It'd be expected that Telstra will attempt to move POTS customers to NBN as early as it can, presumably with incentives, extras and bundled deals: they will have the best 4G network to leverage.

The turn-off is documented in the NBN and Telstra agreements roughly as "people can choose to keep their old copper-line phone for as long as Telstra supports them".
 (SSU: Structural Separation Undertaking, SAU: Special Access Undertaking and TUSMA: Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency managing the USO: Universal Service Obligation).

It isn't stated that way (below). This Departmental media release talks about it.
The universal service arrangements will commence on 1 July, 2012.The TUSMA will ensure:
  • all Australians have reasonable access to a standard telephone service (the Universal Service Obligation for voice telephony services);
  • payphones are reasonably accessible to all Australians (the Universal Service Obligation for payphones);
  • the ongoing delivery of the Emergency Call Service by Telstra (calls to Triple Zero '000' and '112');
  • the ongoing delivery of the National Relay Service;
  • that appropriate safety net arrangements are in place that will assist the migration of voice-only customers to an NBN fibre service as Telstra’s copper customer access network is decommissioned; and
  • technological solutions will be developed as necessary to support continuity of public interest services (i.e. public alarm systems and traffic lights).
Which explicitly says:
  • Telstra will be decommissioning it's copper network some time (piece-by-piece as the NBN fully services a region).
  • voice-only and special-service customers must be looked after.
  • but exactly when can Telstra turn off the copper network isn't scheduled. The Telstra Migration Plan associated with the SSU has details: the copper network is turned off 18 months after an NBN area is "available for service", i.e. 90% of premises are passed with fibre or served with fixed wireless.
From the Telstra site:
The highlights of Telstra’s Migration Plan include:

Business as usual processes apply to the maximum extent possible

As far as possible, Telstra has committed to using its existing ‘business as usual’ processes, systems and interfaces for disconnecting premises. Telstra will also continue to use existing industry processes, such as Local Number Portability and offering call diversion facilities, to allow the migration of services. This will streamline the disconnection process for both wholesale and retail customers.

Wholesale customers retain control over disconnection timing until the final disconnection date for each region

Wholesale customers are able to lodge orders to cancel services at any time (including ‘future dating’ orders) before the disconnection date. This will allow wholesale customers to maximise service continuity for end users by aligning disconnection processes with NBN new connection orders.

Managed disconnection of all remaining ordinary services will occur at the disconnection date for each rollout region

After the NBN rollout has occurred in a particular region, Telstra has an obligation to disconnect the copper lines in that region, usually 18 months after the region has been identified by NBN Co as ‘ready for service’ (i.e. fibre passes 90% of premises). At this time, there will be a managed disconnection of remaining voice and broadband services at premises in the relevant region that have been passed by the NBN and have not already migrated.

If a service has not been migrated prior to disconnection, Telstra is required to keep soft dial tone in place for up to 20 Business Days after the disconnection date to enable continued access to emergency services while a replacement NBN service is arranged.

No new orders for copper services once a premises becomes NBN Serviceable

The Migration Plan prohibits Telstra from supplying a new copper service to a premises where the NBN service qualification process shows that it is capable of being connected to the NBN (except for special services in the early period of the NBN rollout).

Separate Process for the Disconnection of ‘Special Services’

The Migration Plan specifies a list of ‘special services’ (ie services delivered using the copper CAN other than voice or broadband) that will be disconnected in accordance with a separate process. Disconnection for these services will occur 36 months following NBN Co publishing a White Paper specifying an NBN substitute for a particular class of special services.
It's going to be an interested ride with Telstra under a new, possibly enlightened management.

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