Landline Phones and the Universal Service Obligation (USO)

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is a long-standing consumer protection that ensures everyone has access to landline telephones and pay phones regardless of where they live or work.

Telstra is responsible for delivering the USO, and must provide standard telephone services (STS) on request to every premises in Australia within reasonable timeframes. This is both a legislative and contractual obligation.

Please note Telstra are required to maintain landlines in nbn Sky Muster and nbn Fixed Wireless mapped areas, people in these areas DO NOT have to move to an nbn landline and can keep their current landline service.  BIRRR recommends that you maintain your standard landline service in addition to your internet service. If you are told a different story to the above information by a provider, please contact the BIRRR team.

Telstra delivers the USO STS (Standard Telephone Service) using a mix of technologies, including copper, fibre, point to point radio (e.g. high capacity radio concentrator system or HCRC), NGWL and satellite infrastructure (i.e. Telstra’s USO Sat service).

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HCRC in North Western QLD during the devastating 2019 Floods.

Telstra fulfil their obligation to provide an STS by giving customers access to a reliable telephone service that has good voice reception and ensures connections and faults associated with this service are undertaken and repaired within a reasonable time.

You can read what features are included in a USO STS here.

How to order a STS

Orders can be placed at your local Telstra store, by calling 13 22 00, or visiting Telstra online.

Telstra national pricing ensures that customers in remote areas pay the same price for an STS as customers in cities. While this service has traditionally been provided as a fixed line telephone service, Telstra’s obligation is technology neutral meaning they can choose the technology over which they provide you with the service.  For example in some remote areas Telstra provide customers with an STS over satellite.

For more details on appointment, connection and repair times, visit the Telstra website

Telstra STS Repair Times

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Telstra Consumer Service Guarantee (CSG) Payments

If Telstra are unable to repair your landline (STS) within the agreed timeframe you may be entitled to a CSG payment. Keep a record of when you report faults and fault numbers to assist with this process.

Payments are currently:

  • $14.52 (for residential/charity customers) or $24.20 (for business customers), for each working day missed, for the first 5 working days of delay.
  • After the first 5 working days of delay, you may be entitled to receive a CSG payment of $48.40 per additional working day of delay.

The CSG payment does not apply in some cases e.f  if you are offered (even if you don’t accept) an interim telephone service, delays due to natural disasters or circumstances beyond the control of Telstra or if you don’t allow access to your property to a technician.

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For more information please call 13 22 00.

USO arrangements were put in place before the widespread availability of mobile and broadband services. In April 2016, the Government requested the Productivity Commission (PC) undertake an inquiry into the future direction of the USO in an evolving telecommunications market.

The Government released the PC’s report into the telecommunications USO on 19 June 2017. The report provides a range of recommendations regarding the future of universal access to a minimum level of retail telecommunication services.

The final report is available on the Productivity Commission’s websiteYou can read the BIRRR Submission to the Productivity Commission here.

The Government released its response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation on 20 December 2017. The response outlined the Government’s intention to establish a Universal Service Guarantee to cover both broadband and voice services.

ACCAN TIP SHEET ON USO

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding any specific information for your service. Updated 18/08/19

Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow.

 

PlayOn Cloud

PlayOn Cloud is a mobile app that can be used to record and then download video files during off peak times.  This is useful for those on satellite connections (who usually have unused off peak data), those who are experiencing network congestion, slow equipment and those wanting to download movies and clips for times when you need to watch offline e.g plane trips and travel.

BIRRR also has an article on PlayOn Desktop

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How PlayOn Cloud Works

PlayOn cloud is a streaming video recorder that is located in the cloud.  When you select a video file in the app, PlayOn stream and record the file to their server in the cloud (the recording does not use your data/connection).  Once the recording has completed you can download the file from the cloud to your device, downloads can be scheduled to occur in off peak times or times when there is no network congestion. Cloud recordings are stored for 7 days, or longer if you purchase a storage plan.

The PlayOn App is both apple and android compatible.

Steps on using PlayOn

  • Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play
  • Set up your PlayOn Cloud account

68701113_448858545962418_5045470074576568320_nRecording Credit Packs 17/8/19 in US Dollars

  • Purchase recording credits from PlayOn (see above for prices in USD as at 17/08/19), prices vary depending on the pack you choose. recordings can be as low as 18 cents (USD) per video file.
  • Purchase a storage plan if needed, otherwise all recordings will expire if not downloaded in 7 days. PlayOn Cloud Storage plans are optional, you can download your recordings to your device for free at any time during the 7 days.

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  • In Settings, select download options.  Select Auto-Download on WiFi & Restrict Downloads to off peak, set the off peak times (nbn Sky Muster off peak times are 1am – 7am for all providers).  PlayOn Cloud works off your local time.
  • Set your video quality (High Definition if wanting to watch on a large screen)

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  • Select channel settings and sign in to any channel accounts that you have e.g. Netflix, You Tube
  • Select the channel you want to stream from and the video, file you want to record.  Select record. The video file will now begin recording in the PlayOn Cloud, this will show in your Queue section.
  • Your video will download (this is the part that uses YOUR data) during the times you have setup in the settings tab.  Your device must be plugged into power with the app left open for this to occur, you must also have enough storage space on your device. The file will then be downloaded to your device and can be located in the Recordings tab, select device at the top of the tab to see your recording..
  • You will also receive an email notification when your recording is complete.  The notification email will contain a direct link to download the recording to your PC or Mac or any device you’d like, please note that downloading via this link will use your data allowance.
  • PlayOn Cloud allows AdSkipping – Automatically skip ads when you watch recordings.

Synching between devices

If you login with the same PlayOn Cloud account, your recordings will sync across all of your devices that have the app installed. Please ensure your settings are updated in each version of the app.

Recording Failure

In the unlikely event of a recording failure, you’ll automatically be issued a replacement credit. If you encounter any further issues, contact the PlayOn support team at support@playon.tv

Playing your files on a big screen

To play your downloaded files, you can watch them directly from your device or cast them to your TV screen using a device such as Google Chromecast or Apple TV.

PlayOn Cloud Supported Channels

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Recommended channels for Australia are highlighted orange below.

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*May be available without a US based account

As PlayOn Cloud Audience increases in Australia, PlayOn will explore opportunities to expand with other channels such as as Stan, SBS on Demand, ABC iview etc.

You can suggest alternate channels here

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with PlayOn regarding any issues.  

Thanks to Jeff from PlayOn for his assistance in compiling this document.  Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow,  updated on 17th August 2019.

What is a Mobile Small Cell ?

What types of towers/cells are used in MBSP projects?

The Australian Government is improving mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia through the Mobile Black Spot Programme (MBSP). As of 18/3/19 there have been 4 rounds of Federal Government MBSP funding, you can read about each round here.

Types of Base Stations that maybe used in the Mobile Black Spot Program
Base Station Type Typical Coverage Radius Typical Use
Picocell 200m high rise building, hotel or car park use
Microcell 1-2km shopping centres, transport hubs, mine sites, city block, temporary events or natural disasters.
Macrocell 5-32km suburban, city and rural use
Macrocell – Extended Reach 50-150km using extender cell technology suburban and rural use

More details here http://www.mobilenetworkguide.com.au/mobile_base_stations.html

What is A Small Cell ?
Small Cells can be either Picocells or Microcells
  1. What is the range of a small cell?
    The range of a small cell is dependent on a number of variables. Small cells are only viable when they can be achieved at the right price point, which in simple terms means the site’s antennas (especially for small cells deployed as part of the Black Spot program) are normally mounted on an existing building. Coverage typically therefore extends a radial distance of approximately 300m from the site.
  2. Does it only support 4G?
    The small cells we are deploying are 4G only. Telcos believe that this provides support for advanced voice and data features at the best cost point. Addition of 3G capability would significantly add to the deployment cost and render it economically unviable.
  3.  And therefore they need to use Voice over WiFi
    Voice calls on 4G small cells require the handset to support VoLTE (Voice on LTE). If the handset also supports Voice over WiFi (e.g. the new Samsung S8 & S8+ blue tick phone) then it will seamlessly handoff from VoLTE (outside coverage) to VoWiFi if say a premise has fixed broadband connected to a WiFi access point.
  4. If a community wanted to upgrade the small cell to increase coverage, is that something we’d consider.
    The viability of a small cell program relies on a low cost solution delivering an acceptable coverage solution for our customers. The rollout of the Small cell program for the Federal Government Blackspot program is a good example of this. Telcos always aim to maximise the coverage we provide for a community within the funding constraints. If a community wishes to contribute towards augmentation of a site then we are happy to review that on a case by case basis.

Thanks to Telstra for the above information on small cells.

Telstra have also developed a lower cost version of the Mobile Satellite Small Cell, see details below.  To register your interest in a small cell, contact Telstra via email – TelstraRegionalAffairs@team.telstra.com

 

Prepared by Julie Stott & Kristy Sparrow for BIRRR, Source: Australian Financial Review Source: Department of Communications and Arts

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your own connection issues and best plans available.

 

 

nbn Sky Muster Plus SM+

nbn Sky Muster Plus (SM+) is a new product development for satellite users, launched on 12th August 2019. SM+ is a new plan which will provide Sky Muster users with the option of unlimited unmetered access across web browsing, email, smart phone and PC operating system updates, with these downloads not counting toward monthly data allowances.  Data allowances will count metered data for applications such as music and video streaming, voice services and file sharing applications.

Unmetered = data that is not measured or counted as part of your monthly usage, this is unlimited and you will never be slowed for unmetered data.
Metered = data that is measured or counted as part of your monthly usage – this is the data that will be counted in your Sky Muster Plus plan.

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  • Orange Highlighted plans are 12mth contract costs.
  • Blue plans are 24 mth contracts and are only available until 30/09/2019
  • Yellow indicates good value plans with combined metered data cost of under 70 cents/GB
  • Customers should review their providers’ Critical Information Summaries (CIS).
    The CIS was mandated by the ACCC to make it easy for customers to compare providers offerings. Don’t make a decision on price alone. Refer to the BIRRR Guide on How To Choose an nbn Provider

LINKS TO PROVIDERS OFFERING SM+ PLANS:  

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Metered Data = video streaming, file sharing programs such as Dropbox, cloud storage, auto play video files, audio files, online gaming, gaming console & non system software updates

Unmetered Data = emails, general web browsing, social media e.g. facebook, twitter, instagram (static images & text only), banking  & software updates (computer, phone & devices such as ipads.

SM+ is OPTIONAL, standard Sky Muster plans are still available from your provider (see the BIRRR Standard Plan comparison here) .  Not all providers will offer SM+ plans, customers must place an order for a SM+ plan, it is not automatic. Plus plans will reset on the 1st of each month.

NBN Fair Use Policies apply to SM+, to ensure the finite satellite capacity is responsibly shared among users.

If you already have a Sky Muster installation, SM+ plans do not require any additional equipment, in most cases you can use the equipment you already have.

BIRRR will continue to work with nbn regarding the wholesale pricing of SM+, with this in mind end users should be careful of signing up for lengthy contracts in case nbn change the wholesale price in the future.

SM+ is only available on the 25/5Mbps speed tier.

How was this developed?

BIRRR, along with other regional stakeholders have been discussing with nbn and the Federal Government ways to enhance the experience for Sky Muster users, to cater for the growth in data needs.  nbn has been actively looking at ways to optimise Sky Muster, and have spent time reviewing the usage of users.  After reviewing the data and conducting extensive research,  nbn determined that there is a way to deliver extra capacity on the satellites and thus the new SM+ product was developed.

If you are a BIRRR member who has participated in one of our Facebook Polls or surveys, then you have contributed to some of this research.

ICPA, AgForce & BIRRR Meet with nbn Local

How will SM+ benefit me?

Based on the average user, it is estimated that approximately 30-40% of nbn Sky Muster usage will be unmetered on SM+. However, this will vary depending on how each household or business uses the internet.

Will there be any changes to the peak and off peak times on nbn SM+?

Off peak times are not part of the SM+ consultation process, however BIRRR will continue to advocate for changes to the off peak times on Sky Muster.

How else will nbn Sky Muster be enhanced to keep up with the growth in data usage?

BIRRR will continue to collaborate with nbn and the Federal Government on further enhancements to the nbn Sky Muster platform.  BIRRR is looking forward to future nbn announcements such as business satellite services and health and education products.

Will SM+ lead to congestion on the network?

No, SM+ plans should not lead to network congestion as the product is designed for nbn to better manage capacity.

How nbn Sky Muster Plus compares to nbn Sky Muster

nbn outlined the key differences between Sky Muster™ and Sky Muster™ Plus wholesale plans to
help you choose the one best suited to your needs. Click here for details

For further information, click here

Developed for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow, in conjunction with nbn & SkyMesh  12/08/19

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your usage statistics, eligibility and best plans available.

 

Using PlayOn Desktop to Schedule Off Peak Video Downloads

What is PlayOn?

PlayOn Desktop is a program that allows you to schedule the download of movies and tv shows during Sky Muster ‘off peak’ data times. It is relatively cheap and very simple to use, you don’t have to be very tech savvy and its an excellent way to utilise your off-peak data that often goes unused.

What Do I Need?
You need an existing Netflix account or You Tube account to use PlayOn and a PC or laptop with Windows installed. Unfortunately PlayOn Desktop doesn’t work for Macs. 

BIRRR is currently researching the Play On Cloud app which works in a similar way on idevices, we will update when our research is done.

How Much Does it Cost?
PlayOn costs $4.99 USD per month or $30 USD annually or you can pay a one off lifetime membership charge of $69.95 USD. Prices do change regularly so check out current pricing on the Playon Website. Look into downloading a limited time trial, if you want to test the software without the commitment.

PlayOn charges are  an additional cost on top of your Netflix subscription. (Netflix AUS costs $9.99 per month for the basic package, which allows you to stream or download Netflix on 1 screen at a time in Standard Definition). Other plans are available, however it is not ideal to download from more than one device on Sky Muster. You may want to ‘trial’ Netflix for free for a limited time first.

How Does It Work? 

You can set your Play-On to record and download videos as .MP4 files during Sky Muster off-peak times.  PlayOn will start and end the recordings automatically. The recording works in a ‘streaming’ fashion. Meaning that if a movie is 3 hours long it will take 3 hours to record, and you can record up to 6 x 1 hour episodes of a TV series during your off-peak times. This means you can download up to 180 hours of movies and TV shows per month during your off peak time (subject to your data limits). This enables Netflix and You Tube to be more accessible to those on limited data connections.

PlayOn records during normal times too so if you find yourself at the end of your billing period with some leftover peak data and not enough time to use it up you can use PlayOn to record shows during peak times as well to use your data effectively.

How much data does it use?
You can easily adjust the quality of your recordings (similar to adjusting the streaming quality on your Netflix account), which will reduce the amount of data that is used per recording. However, I find anything less than Medium quality to be unwatchable and if you have a decent sized tv then you may want to stick to a High quality download setting.

Low Definition: reduced standard definition video quality, can use up to 300MB per hour.
Medium Definition: standard definition(SD) video quality, can use up to 700MB per hour.
High Definition: high definition(HD) video quality, can use up to 3GB per hour.

How to Watch?
Once you have downloaded your movies and TV shows there are multiple ways to watch them. You can use a streaming device (such as Chromecast) from your desktop, tablet or device. You can also put the files onto a USB or hard drive and plug that straight into your TV. If you have downloaded onto a laptop you can also use an HDMI to plug your computer directly into your TV.  Mirroring apps (try Googling one that is compatible with your TV and device) are also an easy way to watch.

Problems & Tech Support
PlayOn works really well the majority of the time. You can have issues where shows have not recorded properly or not at all (this can be from a minor Play-On glitch or a short Sky Muster outage or update). The program will flag the ones that failed to record overnight so you can add them to the queue to record next time.

PlayOn is a US based company so doesn’t offer phone based support in Australia, however there is a ‘tech support’ button in PlayOn settings which details problems and glitches and how to fix them.  PlayOn tech support can also be contacted via email.

How to Use?

  1. Create an account on the PlayOn website. (you will also need to have created a Netflix or YouTube account)
  2. Choose which payment option you want.
  3. Download the program to the computer you want to use (remember it is not compatible with Mac Computers)
  4. Follow the prompts as instructed.
  5. Once the PlayOn desktop program has downloaded go into settings and the ‘channels’ tab and enter your Netflix or YouTube logon and password details.
  6. In that same settings screen under the ‘General’ tab you can choose the quality of your download from HD to Low Quality as discussed above.
  7. Once this is set up you can go to the top right hand side of the screen and see an ‘off peak’ button. Click it to set up to record during off-peak times. You will need to enter your off-peak times in. PlayOn is very definite and only starts once the off-peak time has begun, it also won’t continue to record past the off-peak time you have set. e.g. If you have a 55 minute episode to record, but only 45 minutes of off-peak time remaining PlayOn will simply not record that episode (rather than record most of it or go over the specified time) and it will remain in the ‘Recording Queue’ until next time.
  8. Now the fun part. Click on the channels tab and choose the Netflix channel. Now you can choose whichever movies and tv shows you want to download. Once you have found what you want to record you will see the button on the far right of the show/episode description that says ‘record’. Click that and it will add it to your ‘Record Queue’ to be recorded during off-peak. You will have to click record for each episode of a series.
  9. Click on the ‘Record Queue’ button on the top right of the screen to see everything you have in your queue. You can change the record order etc from there if you want.
  10. Keep your computer turned on and connected to the internet overnight for the recordings to work (turn the volume down on the computer if you don’t want it annoying you through the night).
  11. You can see which recordings have downloaded successfully and which haven’t in the ‘new recordings’ and ‘failed recordings’ tabs on the left hand menu. Any ‘failed recordings’ you can just add to the ‘Record Queue’ again for next time and they will usually record successfully.  If you continue to get failed recordings or have other problems go to the ‘Help’ button at the bottom left of the screen.
  12. Sometimes when you open the PlayOn program you will get a screen that says ‘Server can’t be found’. Simply click the ‘Open Settings’ button and you will see a ‘Start/Stop Server’ button on the right of your settings. Click it and wait for the box to become green and say ‘Running’ and you are good to go. This happens often and is due to settings that don’t start the server automatically (to save data).

How to View
Refer to the How to Watch section above. You can open the PlayOn program to watch them, otherwise the recordings are also stored in a ‘Play-On’ folder in your Video files on your desktop. From that folder these can be transferred to a USB or hard-drive for viewing (and travel etc) if you want.

Check out Skymesh’s PlayOn hack article

Prepared for BIRRR by Sophie Parbury & Ben from SkyMesh.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your eligibility and best plans available. Page updated 25/10/18.

nbn Fixed Wireless Congestion

What is Congestion ?

Congestion on a nbn Fixed Wireless connection can result in your service slowing down during peak time periods. nbn Fixed Wireless has a finite design capacity and when everyone wants to stream video (termed high concurrency) in the evening on a tower, that is close to design capacity, then some congestion will ensue.  nbn are working to ensure a minimum 6Mb/s peak time experience by the end of the 2018.  Other causes of congestion include too many users on a tower, how a providers CVC (the Connectivity Virtual Circuit) is managed or a tower in need of an upgrade.

Another key reason for slow nbn performance is your home equipment that is either supplied by your RSP or yourself. Contact your RSP to ensure that this equipment is best configured for your use.

NB: nbn Fixed Wireless congestion due to tower overload is NOT widespread. The vast majority of fixed wireless customers enjoy a congestion free experience.

Check out WhistleOut’s tips on how to speed up your connection here and the BIRRR Guide on how to troubleshoot your fixed wireless connection here

You can also try activating a second port on your service with a different provider, such as Aussie Broadband, to see if your service improves. Aussie Broadband will offer a no contract 30 day trial to enable you to see if your old provider has the congestion issue, or if the issue is with nbn.

Whirlpool Discussion on Fixed Wireless Congestion

Whirlpool List of Congested nbn Wireless Towers – please note this is only a guide to congested towers, that has been compiled from Whirlpool Users experiences.

If you are having issues with your nbn Fixed Wireless Service, your first point of contact should always be your provider.

If your provider does not get the issue resolved, in certain cases BIRRR (and providing you have tried to help by following the tips above) can escalate your issue, please complete this form:www.tinyurl.com/BIRRRnbnFWfault

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your RSP regarding your own connection issues.  Thanks to John Kitchener for assistance in compiling this document.   This page was updated on 17th July 2018.

Using PtP to relay nbn Fixed Wireless from a Farm Shed

This is our long story about over coming hills to get a nbn Fixed Wireless Connection!

We live on a farm between Ariah Park and Temora NSW. We are 9km from NBN tower in Ariah Park but have hills in between. My brother in law lives 1km from us which put him at 14km from a tower near Temora and us at 15km away. He was able to get NBN without an issue so we applied to get it. We had a technician come out and say we had strong signal from our roof so he set it all up. He said the green light would come on in a couple of hours and we would be set to go. It didn’t come on so we rang Telstra (our provider) who then rescheduled another visit by the same technician Of course we had to wait another week or two. The same technician came out and couldn’t work it out, said he would look into it and get back to us. We never heard back from him. We rang Telstra to get someone else out. They put us onto Skybridge (nbn installer company), we requested the same technician who put my brother in laws in.

So 2/3 weeks later he came out and he didn’t have any luck either. He said it is because we are past 14km from that tower (beyond nbn limits for Fixed Wireless). He said physically it was possible but NBN have gotten really strict with having to be within 14km from the tower. Another dead end. Telstra kept telling us we needed to go on satellite but we didn’t feel we would be any better off as we had friends who had a lot of trouble with it. Also because you still pay a high price for not a lot of data. We had upped our phone data and used hot spotting and shared data so we could get 45gb all up, which was never enough but much more than we used to get before we joined all our data together. Our kids were desperate for netflix like their cousins over the road!

We had a friend who knew a local technician who had bounced a signal off her in-laws, we got in contact with BIRRR and they told us to look into this. We knew it wouldn’t be ideal because we would have to share data with them (they have 6 kids) and it may slow down when we are all on it, this would have made us feel bad, as theirs is great now and we didn’t want to mess with their connection.

We contacted Michael, the local technician. He asked if we had a shed with power on our property that was within 14km from the tower. We had a tiny shed that had a pump in it and therefore power. It has to be waterproof and you need to put a cupboard in it to keep dust off. We needed to get the lot number from the rates- we rang the local council to get the lot number- they got on google earth and worked it out. Once we did this we could get an nbn location ID number (LOC ID) which Telstra needed to apply for NBN for us. This took a couple of weeks. It was then approved so Telstra scheduled a technician to come out a couple of weeks later.

We got our local guy Michael to come out the day before to make sure he would be able to bounce the signal from the small shed to our house (3km away). Of course, it wasn’t that simple as there were quite a few trees in the way.

Nina6Nina1Nina2
Michael suggested we put an antenna on our big machinery shed (100m from our house) to pick up the signal from the nbn NTD (in the small shed) then throw it to our house. So the plan was for NBN technician to come out the day after then Michael back the day after that to set up the booster. Again, that didn’t work out as the NBN technician needed a pole to put on the shed to get some more height, he didn’t have one with him (apparently they are supposed to) so once again we had to reschedule for a couple of weeks….so frustrating. We rang Michael to tell him what happened, he thought that was terrible as he should have had a pole with him so he rang Skybridge and asked if he can just do the install himself. Skybridge said that was fine. So Michael came the next day, installed the modem into a cupboard in the tiny shed, put a booster on our large machinery shed to throw the signal to the antenna he put on our house roof. This took two days and cost us over $3000.

We are really glad we didn’t take the easier option and go with satellite. We now get 1000gb for $80/month, the boys can get internet in the machinery shed, we have really fast internet and the kids can watch Netflix, so despite the hassles we had to go through for 5 months, it was worth it!!

Nina3Nina4   Nina5

Disclaimer: This document is meant as an informative document based on my own research and experience. Any views, opinions, information etc. provided is not necessarily the same as that provided by NBN Co, BIRRR, or any other organisation referred to here.  Prepared for BIRRR by Nina & Damien Gaynor.