Today more and more developers are becoming interested in turning their estate into an Intelligent Community by installing Fibre to the Home. With this interest Australia has also seen a growing list of new service providers offering to build those networks for the developers. While this can be seen as a good thing, if you are a developer it has become increasingly more difficult to make the right choice which ultimately will cost you several million dollars.

Most importantly there is more than just one choice, in fact there are now 12 carriers in Australia currently operating Fibre to the Home networks. When developing a new estate, professional advice is obtained on the planning, design, civil and even the landscaping. Why then not the telecommunications?

Every developer should seek to establish a strategy plan for their telecommunication needs addressing issues such as cost/budget, scale, clean roof policy, technology (FTTH or FTTN), access regime (i.e. open, closed, wholesale, access to multiple providers), services (Internet, Phone, TV, PayTV), security (CCTV) and other advanced services. The best way to do this is engage a telecommunication consultant with experience in Broadband and Fibre to the Home (such as Titan).

However if you feel you can go it alone, then here are my top thirteen questions you should be asking every network operator to aid in your choice. And of course, make sure the respondents answer the questions in writing and those responses are included as a schedule in any legal agreement. As an old business partner of mine use to say, "verbal agreements are not worth the paper they are written on".
  1. Is the proposed solution a Fibre to the Home (that is no copper) or Fibre to the Node technology? (Ensure any agreement specifically states the technology used and not just a product name. In the past some providers have verbally promised a fibre solution, only for the developer to end up with a hybrid of fibre with copper or coax in the last mile)

  2. What PayTV service(s) will be offered to residents of the estate over the proposed network? (Be sure to include your specific location/town. Foxtel and Austar have specific designated service areas. Some network operators may only support Foxtel)

  3. Ask to be provided with a list of Television channels including if they are analogue or digital that will be available to residents of the estate over the proposed network. (Be aware that there are restrictions on the license areas of television channels and that a network operator is not allowed to retransmit channels outside the license area. You want to ensure if you are in a regional area you get the local channels)

  4. Where a resident does not order any service do they still receive access to the Free to Air television via the proposed network? (You will typically be paying a fee of several thousand dollars per lot. This is basically to pay for the install and electronics. Some providers connect every home in an estate with at least a TV service, irrespective of any other services offered. Others providers have been known to deliver the TV only if the consumer order another service. Other providers may charge a small annual maintenance fee to the home owner)

  5. Does the proposed network offer open access or wholesale services? (This is in my opinion the most important question, because it comes down to a question of choice for the residents. Some developers have reportedly received backlash from residents over their choice of network operator and the limitation of available retail offerings. Be careful of some of the clever marketing responses to this question, which leads on to following question)

  6. If so who, are the service providers from which residents can select and what are their products? Request from the provider a rate card of the residential service offerings that include Internet, Telephone and PayTV products. (. If the provider does have an open access policy or offers wholesale services over their network, they should be able to provide a list of service providers from which residents can choose. Pricing of broadband Internet services over FTTH networks can vary greatly. Some providers are charging up to twice the normal rate of a typical ADSL2+ service)

  7. Request a full explanation of "starter package" residents may receive as part of the offer. (Most providers include rebates, vouchers or promotions for the first resident occupying a house. You need this information so you can make an effective evaluation of competitive proposals. What might be a great offer to the developer may be disliked by the residents because they are expensive, slow or lacking features)

  8. Request the provider to install and provide free access to a CCTV network for the monitoring of security in the estate. (This is a valuable tool to aid in reducing the incidents of building site theft. Some councils are now encouraging developers to install such technology on a permanent basis for the monitoring of anti social behaviour in public open spaces.)

  9. Is the provider offering to Smart wire the home? (Fibre to the Home is best used in conjunction with a Smart wired home, but this can cost up to $3500 from some builders. A basic smart wired package including a wall cabinet, cabling and a few point in the house does not need to cost thousands of dollars, and it is a value add to a residents home)

  10. Does the proposed network also provide business grade services? (The design of many estates includes both residential and commercial precincts. You want to ensure that what you are buying can service both the residential and business occupants. Some providers may only offer residential services over their FTTH network)

  11. What backhaul will be provided exclusively to the estate? (This is an important question, because having a fast access network is one thing, you also need a fast backbone. You should be looking for at least 100Mbps backhaul specifically for the estate. Don't be fooled by the use of the terms "capable")

  12. What are the proposed Access Service Speeds. (There is no point in paying for a Fibre to the Home network if you are only getting ADSL2+ speeds. As a minimum, one of offered speeds should include a 10Mbps Symmetrical (10Mbps down, 10Mbps up) service at around the typical ADSL2+ market price. Offers should include a low price plan, and a high speed plan such as 25 or 30Mbps. It is actually cheaper to deliver services over fibre than ULL)

  13. Ask how services will be delivered into Multi Dwelling Units? (Some providers may only deliver services to the Main Distribution Frame or Communications Room in the basement. You want to ensure the operator is delivering Fibre all the way into the individual apartments, and they will maintain the network through to that point)

There are many more questions that should be asked during contract negotiations, these are just some of them. If you want the answers to these questions, or more importantly in my opinion what the answers should be, then contact me on 08 62677118.


At 10 September, 2008 12:05 P Ward said...

Stephen Davies is correct in his assertion that it's becoming increasingly difficult for developers to make the right choice when selecting a FTTH provider. He asks some interesting questions, although in my experience there are many more essential questions that need to be asked.
Will they meet all carrier obligations with regards to the provision of a standard telephone service and will it provide all the features and services generally available?
What are the service delivery timeframes for new services, the response and restore timeframes for faults and do they provide a customer service guarantee?
What are days of the week and hours of the day residents will be able to call in for service queries?
How is their network connected into the national and global networks and what quality of service and redundancy do they provide?
How many sites have they deployed networks to and what number of services do they have connected?
What is their proven experience in the construction and deployment of residential telecommunications networks along with delivery and ongoing support of customer services over residential telecommunications networks?
What is their financial capability to build the network and to provide ongoing investment to maintain the network and the services both in the short and long term?
What are the product pathways that will ensure residents have access to services which will be made generally available to all other Australians?
Specifically, which service providers will be delivering what services over the network? Moreover, what are their offerings and are they available from day 1?

At 10 September, 2008 18:11 Anonymous said...

"Will they meet all carrier obligations with regards to the provision of a standard telephone service"

All telephone providers are required to meet the regulations governing the delivery of the standard telephone service irrespective of the transport medium (e.g. even VoIP providers)

"What are the service delivery timeframes for new services"

Probably better than what Telstra is currently delivering. As reported on whirlpool, and various media outlets, there have been delays with connecting customers on Velocity. One customer I believe waited 6 months for their fibre connection in Brighton.

“customer service guarantee?”

Every carrier in Australia must comply with the ACMA’s customer service guarantee. If they dont penalties apply.

“Specifically, which service providers will be delivering what services over the network?"

That was a question Stephen asked. Just looking through some of the providers listed on this blog the services offered by them deliver more choice, better functionality and at a much cheaper price.

Look at the Telstra Velocity Liberty pricing, $119.95 when I can get the same speed and better quota from Internode or iiNet for less than $50 on ADSL2+.

At 11 September, 2008 00:32 Stephen Davies said...

Thanks Peter,

The questions you raise are also important as they relate to the due dilegence and capability of the carrier.

However, a typical evaluation process would be first to determine if the provider can deliver the functional (and service) requirements a developer and the residents of an estate are seeking.

Once that is established you would then seek to perform the due dilegence on the short listed organisations.

There are many questions that can be asked, the ones I focused on are specifically functional or service related in nature.

For those who dont know, Peter Ward is the National Urban Development Manager at Telstra and runs their Smart Communities Program under which the Telstra Velocity product sits (their name for FTTH).


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