Aussie Broadband’s POI building experience
Health warning – this post gets a bit technical
Initially we connected to 12 nbn POIs and used Optus to connect to the remaining ones through a national aggregation agreement. It started out okay but over time, congestion within the Optus network damaged our brand and the experience our customers were receiving.
In October last year l was very pleased to announce that Aussie would undertake the massive task of building to all 121 nbn POIs around Australia. It’s the biggest project we have ever undertaken, but being in control of our own network is the core reason for heading down this path – it would allow us to ensure the best customer experience possible.
Our new network
The project is progressing but hasn’t been without its challenges. Originally we had planned to be finished by now but due to some delays with our backhaul provider, we connected the first new POIs in early March. As l write we are now at a total of 61 of the 121 POIs and by the end of May we should be at 119 of them.
We chose Telstra Wholesale as our backhaul provider, and they are supplying 1G and 10G wavelengths from our capital city data centres to each of the nbn POIs. You’re probably wondering what’s the difference between this and our old Optus arrangement?
The core difference is we have dedicated bandwidth to each POI which is not shared with any other provider. A wavelength provides the subscribed speed, and it can’t be shared with others. The Optus solution took a backhaul link and it was shared with both Optus retail and their wholesale customers – meaning that if one provider was using more than another there wasn’t a fair distribution. We also couldn’t control how much we used or purchased on a per POI level.
Our new shiny network allows us to do all of this, and be in total control of all the elements. What’s more, we believe we are the only provider outside of the “big 4” that has connected to all nbn POIs.
Building a national network has not been without its challenges. For starters, we are about 4-5 months behind schedule! Wrangling Telstra and nbn to work together has also had its moments but we have a great project team at both organisations as well as internally.
For each of the 121 POIs we go through this process:
- Order the nbn ports to connect to – this is known as a NNI (Network to Network Interface).
- Order the wavelength service from our data centre in each capital city out to the nbn POI, which is typically inside a Telstra exchange. Each wavelength is either 1 Gbit or 10 Gbit depending on the customer volume we have and expect at that POI.
- Sit back and wait for the wavelength which should take 40 working days…… (but typically takes 4-6 months if you push)
- As the link is close to installation, arrange cross connection between Telstra’s fibre trays and nbn’s fibre trays. This is basically a fibre patch cable from one location to another within the POI, allowing 5 working days for completion.
- Order the cross connect from Telstra’s fibre tray to ours within capital city data centre, usually about 2 working days.
- Get signoff that the wavelength is complete (internally do a high 5 cause it’s finally done)
- Book an NNI activation appointment with nbn, allow 2 working days
- On the appointment date and time our engineers talk with nbn’s engineers and try to bring up the link. One of two things can happen at this point:
- It either works and we move onto the next stage, or
- It doesn’t work and we start trying to work out why. Possible problems range from no physical link (no light) which usually means the transmit and receive fibres are around the wrong way (requiring an on-site visit), LACP/LAG doesn’t establish which is usually a setting in Telstra’s network, or you get the really weird cases where there is just one way traffic flow even though each end can see light on the link. It’s when things don’t work that the activation time line can blow out from about 20 minutes to weeks.
- Once we have an active NNI, we can order some nbn bandwidth. This is known as CVC or Connectivity Virtual Circuit. This can take anywhere from about 15 minutes to 5 working days to provision, depending on whether the order goes through nbn’s systems smoothly or not.
- With the CVC done we can now connect customers! All existing customers that are on that POI will then be sent an email saying they will be migrated the next working day and any orders for new services will then automatically flow through as well.
As you can see there’s a lot of steps in the process and lots of ways the timeline can blow out if things don’t go to plan – and this is just for connecting out to the nbn POIs. In the background, we have also been building new points of presence (POPs) in Brisbane and Perth along with significantly upgrading our Adelaide presence with a new site in Hawthorn and a dark fibre ring connecting to our existing site.
Every capital city POP now has a Cisco 9K platform installed which is specifically designed for terminating these types of service. They’re not cheap but can scale to ridiculous amounts of bandwidth and customers.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words so to put it into perspective, here’s an internal document which highlights where we are today and where we are going to. Each capacity city point of presence has local peering links and we have transit internet gateways in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Every peering and transit link is 10 Gbits as a minimum and each link between states can be up scaled quickly to add more capacity as our customer base grows. I would also stress that this diagram just relates to our nbn network, there is a much bigger network that sits behind this.