Bodies corporate committees in the middle of NBN – TPG showdown


Brisbane bodies corporate are set to be embroiled in the confrontation between telecommunication companies NBN Co and TPG, and committee members need to be vigilant to ensure their body corporate is not adversely affected by the maneuverings of the big companies.

TPG Telecom recently announced expansion plans to provide fibre to the basement (FTTB) to 500,000 apartments in several capital city areas, including Brisbane’s CBD and Fortitude Valley.

In response, NBN Co has announced it will fast forward their roll out, citing the need for a commercial response to emerging competition for high-value customers. Previously, the rollout had prioritized areas currently underserviced by fast broadband, but the shift will extend it to areas full of residential and business complexes, including inner city Brisbane.

SSKB Director Tim Sheehan says “the struggle over strata scheme buildings is important, as most apartment complexes can only have one FTTB connection, so committees need to ensure it is the right one for the owners and residents.  Committees should not be squeezed in the battle of the telecommunication companies for extremely profitable high density clients.”

Pipe Networks

A number of bodies corporate managed by SSKB have already been approached assertively by Pipe Networks – a member of the TPG Telecom Ltd group of companies. Notices provided by Pipe Networks state their intention to install fibre optic and communications equipment in the apartment building, and claim they are able to do so as a Carrier Licence holder under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth). The notices paint a picture of committees having no choice, and of not needing to be concerned.

In information provided by TPG to both bodies corporate and SSKB Community Managers, the following points are emphasized:

i.             TPG wants to increase choice available to consumers;

ii.            There is no obligation for owners or tenants to connect to TPG services;

iii.           Installation of the FTTB infrastructure will not affect existing telephone or internet services;

iv.           Multiple service providers can share a single piece of infrastructure;

v.            The Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) takes precedence over local or state laws, meaning there is no need for body corporate approval to proceed.

TPG’s CEO/Chairman, Mr. David Teoh, has stated that TPG will offer wholesale access to its infrastructure to other providers. This means that though all occupiers of that building may be using TPG equipment, they may choose TPG or another provider for their internet and telephone services.

Bodies corporate have understandably expressed concerns about the notices provided by Pipe Networks and their ability to proceed without approval. However legal advice has shown that there are limited grounds for objections under the Act to carriers installing low-impact facilities, and the objections are subject to certain timeframes in order to be valid.

NBN Co Challenges TPG Claims

NBN Co fears that the rollout will result in strata schemes being subject to exclusive supply arrangements and that competition will be limited.

Though TPG states the FTTB service will not prevent NBN access, and that existing DSL or cable services will continue without interruption, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow claims buildings may still be limited to one sole provider.

He highlights information appearing in TPG flyers, stating, “If another provider were to install the same technology there is a potential for conflict between the two systems and neither would operate at their full potential speed”.

fibreb

This recommendation not to have multiple FTTB systems effectively removes choice from buildings where Pipe Networks or TPG infrastructure has already been installed.

Tim Sheehan has suggested that as a minimum committees should be requesting that any installer of the FTTB system should provide warranties that their system will not impact on the available speed within the building in the event that 2 systems are installed: “No committee should be part of a process which limits the future speed”.

Another concern raised is that the choice of internet and telephone providers for occupiers is conditional upon other service providers being willing to connect to and access TPG infrastructure. The likelihood of this could be questionable.

It is feared that these two factors combined will effectively limit the choice of infrastructure and service provider in some buildings to TPG alone.

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow highlights the NBN’s ability to provide competitive choice.

“The NBN levels the playing field for Australian telecommunications and creates real and vibrant competition. We can make this statement because the NBN doesn’t sell directly to consumers and is open to all retail service providers to use on equal terms.”

“Vertically-integrated carriers  – companies that both own networks and market to consumers – cannot offer those same guarantees. A building that signs up to TPG runs the risk of being left with only one retail service provider – TPG itself.”

“There are 44 retail service providers operating over the NBN, representing more than 90 per cent of the retail broadband market.”

Industry concerns

A survey by leading telecommunications newsletter Communications Day reveals that a clear majority of the industry is opposed to TPG’s plans or thinks that competition restraints are necessary.

You can read the NBN Co Media Release here



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Recent Comments

4 Comments

Kristian On May 12, 2014 | Reply

I whole heartedly support TPG rolling out Fibre internet services to Strata buildings. The NBN has turned into a complete mess, its so far behind schedule and so over budget, that the chances of it ever being completed are fast becoming a pipe dream.

TPG are offering a viable alternative and some much needed competition, and I find it incredibly amusing that all the NBN Co can do is cry foul and whinge that someone else is encroaching upon its monopoly of failed fibre internet.

Maybe if the politicians would stop bickering and name-calling, the NBN would actually be going somewhere. As far as I am concerned, the NBN died when the Liberal government took power. If you want fast internet services before you die of old age, speak to TPG.

Keith On May 13, 2014 | Reply

SSKB, you have embarrassed yourself with this article and completely destroyed my faith in your ability to have an expert opinion on any matters relating to my body corp. If you are going to wade in with an opinion on an issue, at least have the diligence to seek expert advice first. I am an electrical engineer, and I can state categorically that optical fibre cables do not provide any interference whatsoever with other optical fibre cables, and running any number of competing fibre services next to each other will have absolutely no impact on each other. Even the quickest google search for something like “optical fibre interference” will educate you on this issue.

From a political standpoint, it is a shame that we aren’t building this amazing infrastructure once and once only, right the first time, owned by the people, and resold by competing private companies. This doubling up is a big waste of money that the end user will end up paying for thanks to our far seeing clever government. But so be it, and we may as well welcome the competing companies to lay their infrastructure for us and compete on price for our business.

    SSKB On May 13, 2014 | Reply

    Dear Mr Keith,
    We thank you for your comment.

    You may have misinterpreted our article, and the role of SSKB. Some of our clients have felt bullied into consenting to the TPG offering without an understanding of the technical issues.

    Our position is to make the committees aware of the various views, so as to allow the members to form an opinion and to seek technical advice. We note your view as an electrical engineer about the possibility of interference between various installations on site. However, we have reported a quote from the CEO of NBN Co, which is also an authoritative view.

    Moreover, an additional concern to the technical impact the competing facilities may have, is the economic viability of multiple Fibre to the Building Installations, and this may limit true freedom of choice.

    We support your view about the ongoing benefits of having the right infrastructure installed, which is exactly the point of this article.

    Mark Carlile On June 19, 2014 | Reply

    Keith, the issue is not the fibre part of the solution. The interference issue is the running of VDSL on the copper side, from the basement to the apartments themselves. NBN have confirmed this.

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