Too many people (not our customers) complain that the NBN is too slow.
Well it’s not the NBN. The FTTN (fibre to the node) network, whilst crappy can still be good. The FTTP (pure fibre to the premise) network that most of Tasmania has is a beautiful network that’s reasonably reliable and flexible to fulfil data needs for decades to come.
So then why are some connections slow? The crew at CNet explain (sorry about the 15 second ad at the start).
Launtel Business network is a Zero Congestion network. Our Residential network is currently low congestion (much lower than our competitors), but will become a no congestion network in coming months.
If your speeds aren’t what you’re paying for, tell your current provider you want out of the agreement or just give our free 7 day trial a go! We can show you how the NBN was meant to be.
Those of you who know me, know that I am pretty mild mannered and don’t get excited about a lot, in other words your typical engineer. However over the last few months I have been getting increasingly frustrated with NBN’s HFC product. This morning I was sent this picture…
HFC has got to be the worst product NBN have – yes worse than Fixed Wireless – which has recently seen much of their congestion issues fixed. It creates so much work for us an RSP, let alone the poor service delivered to our customers. Here are some of the issues we encounter on a day-to-day basis:
- The service drops out a lot, for some customers multiple times a day. The NTD lights start flashing and your service is down until it can resync with the HFC Node.
- The NTD needs to be plugged in and connected before we can provision a service – this requires multiple contacts with the client to double check, get feedback on the lights etc. Even then we are seeing many provisioning attempts fail because apparently the signal levels are too low. This then requires an NBN technician to go out and install a new NTD. This can be on an NTD that had an active service just days previously.
- They did not bolt the NTD to the wall, like they did with FTTP and Fixed Wireless so it is common for tenants to take the old NTD with them when they leave a property. This NTD is useless to them because it won’t work at another address – so ends up in the trash. We then have to get an NBN technician out to install a new one.
- There is currently a shortage of NBN NTD’s due to an upstream manufacturing issue (Covid related), so NBN are “pacing out” the appointments in an attempt to manage their dwindling stock. The net result is appointments for a new or a replacement NTD is typically 2 to 3 months out. In fact it has become so bad that on many occasions there are no appointments available at all to be booked. We then have to raise a ticket with NBN to get that fixed (2 to 3 day’s delay).
- NBN’s systems often show multiple NTD’s listed as being on site, however only one is really there. There is no way to line up which NTD is the real one – they don’t list any identifying feature in the NBN provisioning portal that we can tie up with what the customer can see on the box itself (e.g. the MAC address). So we spend hours trying one NTD, failing and then having to try the other.
- We often see packet loss on a service that appears to get worse and worse until eventually it stops – we suspect NBN resets something in the node to fix it. Gives a whole new meaning to standard IT trick of rebooting your equipment to fix things.
- The HFC Nodes appear to have no battery backup, unlike FTTN. So when the power fails the entire area is out. We have seen issues caused by faulty electrics (e.g. an RCD failure) that have taken 24 hours to get an electrician out to fix.
- The upload speed on HFC is woeful. This is not surprising given that it was designed for cable TV (i.e. broadcast signals moving down to the subscriber). Upload was added as an afterthought, easily gets congested and often struggles to even maintain the 40Mb upload that comes with the 100/40 speed. If you want to know why NBN is pushing the 100/20 speed (“Home Fast”), it is because of HFC.
- Because it is a broadcast medium – all the subscribers in an area are essentially connected together on a single coax cable – any issues with any one of the subscribers equipment (e.g. a faulty NTD putting noise on the cable) and it affects the entire segment, creating packet loss and dropouts. To make matters worse tracking down that faulty NTD is extremely hard to do remotely, requiring technicians to measure what is going on on the cable.
- Despite there being two physical ethernet ports on the NTD, NBN will only allow a single service at a time. Now this is not unique to HFC, it is the same with the other MTM technologies. This creates issues because we are forced to do a service transfer (unlike FTTP & FW where we just activate the next port). This is OK, except when our customer has misunderstood the process and there is already a disconnection in process from his previous provider. The transfer fails, the NBN order bombs out and we then have to wait several hours for the port to become free before we can place a new order. All the time, the customer is down.
I cannot believe that NBN are sinking more money (upgrading to DOCSIS 3.1, rolling out new coax – yes new leadins – to subscribers who did not have the original cable TV) into this network. However in some ways they are stuck. The problem with infrastructure is that you can’t change course on a dime – it is extremely expensive to change technology in an area. FTTN now has an upgrade to FTTP plan in the works. There is no equivalent for HFC, so we are likely to be stuck with it for a while. The basic problem is that most people (including politicians and regulators) consider the speed of a service, not it’s reliability or cost of maintenance. For speed HFC actually looks pretty good.
For those people who originally had the Optus cable, which NBN bought and decided was in too poor a state to rescue, so dumped it, you guys dodged a bullet. Most people were put onto FTTC instead. While this is not as good as FTTP, it is way more reliable and predictable than HFC. NBN are now working on increasing the speeds for FTTC. If only Telstra had neglected their HFC network in the same way Optus did.
While NBN’s change to MTM, from the original FTTP rollout for political reasons (why were politicians were allowed to make engineering decisions?), was expected to save NBN money (it actually didn’t), all this has done is to dump a whole bunch of extra costs onto the RSPs and the users who have to deal with the mess. HFC is the standout mistake in MTM, yes worse than FTTN.
I would call on NBN to dump HFC, but that is not going to happen – we are all too deeply dug into the financial hole. My only suggestion is that if you are looking to rent or buy a property, lookup the technology type on our website, if it’s HFC, just move on. You may get lucky with HFC and it will be OK, but do you really want to take that risk?
Posted on January 24, 2021
We’re proud to announce that Launtel has won the national award for best Internet Service Provider in Australia by Product Review with a 4.9 star rating out of 5. A rating almost unheard of in the telco industry.
Unlike many other awards programs, every telco of reasonable size is in the running. This is not an award a telco can just ‘enter’ – it’s based on the most important measure, customer feedback.
We’ve built a network around fixing all the things that frustrate people with the rest of the industry. Features like pausing for free when you go on holiday, and the ability to get an nbn connection turned on to an address in well under 20 minutes has actually had some people thinking our reviews were fake!
In line with ProductReview structure, the award is shared between the top 2 rating companies, and the other, while a very different type of provider to Launtel, is Mint Telecom, also Tasmanian.
In May 2017, we were the first internet service provider in Australia to deliver Gigabit speeds on the nbn. In 2020, we completed our expansion to offer premium internet across the whole of Australia. This move to build a national network has now opened up 11 million more premises eligible for connection.
In the period between 1 July and 30 September, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman received 32,801 complaints, that’s more than 364 complaints every day! This highlights the need for a telco that has been built differently from the ground up. Yet, we know that many internet users across Australia continue to pull their hair out dealing with their provider.
I’d like to thank our team who genuinely care about the network we build and the service we offer, but also to our customers who are our greatest asset in providing constructive feedback as well as being our very best advocates.
We’re committed to building a telco that’s as fast and flexible as the NBN was meant to be – also one that genuinely invests to give users a premium nbn experience. We’re ready for our growth and we’re proudly flying the Tasmanian flag of innovation across the country. There’s no better award to win than the one voted by our very own customers.
Damo and the Launtel crew
What features make Launtel special?
- No slowdowns at peak times – we show our network performance live.
- You can pause your connection when on holiday – no charge.
- Local support team with no call centres – quick response.
- Choose or change your speed up or down as you like (up to 1000Mbps in some areas)
- No fees to move house or business – do it within a few minutes
- No contracts or obligation – we focus on keeping customers through great service
- Free 7 day trial – no credit card needed
- Referral bonus for customers who refer a friend!
Posted on November 28, 2020
Those who have known us for a while will know that one of the unique benefits of our service is our daily billing method and the ability to “pause” our service at any time. This allows people who don’t need our internet connection all the time, such as for a holiday house or because they only have very sporadic internet needs (e.g. kids at weekends) to turn our service on for a day at a time. We do this by actually disconnecting the service while it is paused, but saving all the details so that it can be reconnected as it was before when required.
This is really only possible financially if there is no connection charge – a charge levied by the wholesalers every time a connection is established (or the retail service provider is changed). The practice dates back to the old copper days where to establish a connection Telstra would have to send a technician out to physically hook up the wire. In those days it did actually cost the wholesaler to do this. However nowadays with computerised provisioning (which takes just a few minutes), it costs the wholesaler nothing to do this.
When NBN came onto the scene they decided from the beginning not to charge a connection charge, and based on this lack of charge we were able to develop our current pay as you daily internet product.
However Launtel are now providing services on other wholesale networks such as Opticomm and LBNCo. We were horrified to find that Opticomm were charging $69+GST and LBNCo were charging $99+GST. Since the merger of Opticomm and LBNCo, they are aligning the price at the higher of the two, $99+GST, in April 2021. The net result is that every time a service is “unpaused” we are charged $99+GST. This clearly makes pausing and unpausing completely unviable financially on their networks. Just to re-iterate this is a charge for an action that costs them virtually nothing due to their automated provisioning (which is very good, particularly on Opticomm, most services are provisioned in minutes).
However not only does this mean that we cannot offer our service pausing for the minority of customers on their networks, but it also has significant implications for competition as a whole. Every time a customer changes retail provider this fee also must be paid to the wholesaler (some retailers pass it on others do not). One wholesaler actually promoted this to us retailers as a way to reduce this “churn” – the retailers are more likely to get “sticky” customers, i.e. reduce competition. This feels very much like the old idea of a 12 or 24 month contract. We think this is a bad idea: customers should feel free to try multiple providers until they find one they like. Interestingly even in the old Telstra copper days the connection charge did not apply when changing retail providers.
We offer a no obligation free trial to our customers, while a good percentage go onto take the paid service, adding this connection charge further increases the outlay that we have to make to get a new customer.
There is also a perverse incentive around this connection charge: the wholesaler has an incentive to provide a poor service. Typically if a wholesaler’s network gets congested for an extended period of time due to overcommitted backhaul, customers tend to switch retail provider in the hope of avoiding the issue (which they can’t – all retailers use the same wholesale network). The wholesaler collects a connection charge each time the customer does this. In other words they profit from the overcommited backhaul.
We are surprised that the ACCC allows this charge at all – their stated position is that a wholesaler may not charge any more than an equivalent NBN service without special permission. Did they really not take into account these connection charges?
With the increasing use of 5G mobile broadband plans, wholesalers are coming under increased competition from the mobile network. The mobile network suits many people who move around a lot, which is particularly common in the apartment dwellings that many of the non-nbn wholesalers often specialise in, because they just pick up their router and take it with them. Our quick provisioning and daily pricing often also works in this market – people connecting up only when they need it. One wholesaler boasted to us that they had 80% of a block connected. What about the other 20% we asked, they probably have internet, just not fixed line internet.
It is worth pointing out that these wholesalers are pretty much always monopolies. While the idea of infrastructure competition (multiple wholesale networks offered to an address) sounds good in theory, it very rarely actually happens. You end up with a bunch of monopolies instead. No new provider is going to roll out infrastructure to a building that already has existing infrastructure just to go into competition with incumbent – they are more likely to pick a building without any competition (or only a competitor using a poor technology such as FTTB). So while the developer may have a choice of provider, the end user, probably just a tenant of the building, has no choice and must go with whatever the developer chose.
While I said earlier that NBN do not charge a connection charge, they are proposing to introduce a small one of about $5. This is probably small enough that while we may have to pass it through, will not stop people pausing their service. However, we believe it is a move in the wrong direction.
We believe that connection (and churn) charges are a hangover from the past and now are just being used as a way to raise more revenue by the monopoly wholesale providers while avoiding raising their monthly wholesale prices. It is produces an anti competitive environment where even changing retail providers is harder than it should be.
Posted on January 11, 2021