New box needed to hook PABXs to NBN

NBNCo, the company building the national broadband network, says you’ll need a new piece of equipment to connect your PABX to the new network.

NBNCo this week announced its new products for small business. We’ll get to them in a minute, because one thing missing from its announcement was how a PABX – the device used to arrange and direct traffic between multiple phone lines in an office – would connect to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

We felt that was an unusual omission given that so many small businesses use PABXs, so we asked NBNCo to explain.

Here’s what the company said to us in an email:

“The method of connecting existing PABX or telephone systems requires a specialised device to be connected to the NBN Co Network Termination Device (NTD).”

To translate, that means that when you hook up to the NBN, NBNCo will give you a box called an NTD which connects you to the NBN. The NTD cannot deliver telephony or data connections to the outside world by itself.

That’s not scary because we’ve known it a while now. But NBNCo is now talking about the PABX a little more.

“In the case of business applications,” the email goes on, “this device may include the interfaces to connect PABX or telephone systems to the NBN Co NTD.”

At this point you might be worried that your PABX supplier might not be on board.

The good-ish news is that NBNCo says “Several service providers we have spoken to are already developing their solutions for this market based on our announcements.”

So there we have it. To connect your PABX to the NBN you’ll need a new device to make it happen and “several providers” are getting them ready. We’re willing to bet you won’t be able to install it yourself so get ready for a visit from a technician and, we expect, a bill for the specialised device.

As with most telephony equipment this “specialised device” will probably work for years at a time without you ever having to worry about it, although it will mean there’s something else in your office that could break.

Will it be worth making the move to the NBN for your telephony?

The plans NBNCo announced include some nicely speedy Internet connections – up to 40Mbps (almost twice as fast as ADSL2+). The network will also treat phone calls as top priority traffic, so you won’t get the degradation of voice quality that sometimes comes with voice over internet protocol packages today.

NBNCo will also offer extended support “ from 7am to 9pm seven days a week, with a one hour response time and 12-hour restoration time in metro areas” to make sure you get the reliability you need. If you want more detail you can find the NBNCo press release here (PDF download).

So should you start planning a move to the NBN?

The short answer is no, for three reasons we can think of.

  1. It will probably be years before the NBN arrives near your business, so chill until it does;
  2. If your business rents office space, you’ll need to figure out what the whole building does before making any decision. Hopefully your landlord will just take care of it!
  3. Until carriers reveal how much it will cost to make calls on the NBN, any decision is moot.

 

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