On the NBN Co website you will find a fact sheet on "the most important things you need to know" about business grade data services provided over the NBN.
The fact sheet makes for interesting reading, and you may be surprised to find out that most NBN plans are considered inadequate for business use. NBN alternatives such as fixed wireless or corporate fibre, that may seem expensive are in fact very competitive when it comes to getting what a business needs.
The NBN fact sheet provides details of a grade of service delivered over the NBN called 'Traffic Class 2' The fact sheet explains that the more important an application or service delivered over the NBN, the more you need Traffic Class 2.
There are four traffic classes in all, and the standard NBN services widely available from retail service providers are all Traffic Class 4.
The fact sheet offers a list of the applications and services for which NBN Co says you should be using Traffic Class 2.
The list is long, and if you were to follow NBN Co's recommendations you would not be using a standard, Traffic Class 4 internet service for anything other than email and web browsing. Here's the list.
- Broadcast TV and IPTV
- Software as a Service applications
- Video conferencing
- Business-critical cloud services, including Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Live audio and video streaming
- Video surveillance
- Data back-up
- Real-time data recovery
- Video on demand
- Security data transmission – including VoIP services
- VPN access
So what's the difference between a Traffic Class 2 and Traffic Class 4 service?
Retail services based on TC 4 services are all asymmetric: the downstream bandwidth is higher than the upstream. This might be OK for many applications, but certainly not for things like video conferencing, unless the upstream bandwidth is sufficiently high.
More importantly all TC4 services offer bandwidth "up to", for example, 100Mbps. This means the retail service provider has purchased sufficient bandwidth to provide a 100Mps service but is sharing this bandwidth among multiple customers; 0, 20, 30 customers, often many more.
Clearly, not all of them will get 100Mbps at the same time. And the increasing popularity of video stream services that consume high bandwidth constantly will only make things worth.
With TC2 each customer is guaranteed the stated bandwidth. However, TC2 based retail services don't come cheap. Few of the providers offering them publish their prices but we did find one with prices starting at $270 per month for a service offering 20Mbps upstream and downstream.
However even paying that kind of money you don't get the terabytes of data, or unlimited data, typically offered on sub $100 per month consumer grade NBN plans. You get only 200GB. Want 1TB per month? That will be $440 please, plus GST.
In short, if you are using a standard sub-$100 per month NBN service, be aware of its limitations and if some of the non-NBN alternatives for business like corporate Fibre seem expensive, when you compare them to an equivalent business grade Traffic Class 2 service from NBN Co, you might be pleasantly surprised.
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