Ongoing rollout of the national broadband network will carry 1 million alarm systems into a networked environment. Installers and monitoring stations need to plan ahead to make sure they don’t get caught out.

By February 2015, the NBN was available in around three quarters of a million premises across the country and was rolled out at twice the rate of the previous 12-month period. Similar increases in the pace of the rollout are expected this year and next. 2014 also saw the beginning of copper line disconnection and disruption to existing telephone and ADSL services prompting concern from some businesses. For example, as the NBN roll out continues and more disconnections take place, around one million back-to-base monitored alarms will require an upgrade to operate in an NBN world.

Despite the widespread publicity, there is a surprising lack of awareness and plenty of confusion within households and businesses about the NBN cutover. Go on a date with a woman in USA, find this date here. According to research by service provider iiNet, around 2 thirds of Australians think switching from copper to NBN is optional, while 62 per cent believe their copper landline will remain connected even if they don’t switch to the NBN.

Tom Sykes, Hills Ltd

The ramifications for the security, health and aged care industry are clear. As the switch-off progresses, security companies can expect to be inundated with phone calls from end users who will find their back to base security alarms suddenly not working or homes and businesses reporting operating issues with their alarm systems. Monitored medical alarms will need to be replaced with next generation devices that can work in the new NBN fibre era.

This presents businesses with opportunities but how do you capitalise on it? Taking security alarms as a case study, communication is a critical factor in making customer migration seamless. The different parties involved in an alarm installation – alarm installers, alarm companies, NBN Co, service providers and the alarm manufacturers must work together to minimise the risk of operating problems.

This might sound like it is not for your business, but with more than one million homes and businesses across Australia, it would be worth your while to make it your business. In the security industry, alarm installers and alarm companies are well placed to take advantage of the opportunity presented by this situation.

They have:

* Direct relationships with the end user
* Knowledge of physical alarm locations
* Forewarning of the imminent changes.

NBN Co, telephone and internet service providers can’t move on this space yet. Usually, they don’t even know the equipment exists. This is a customer engagement opportunity too good to miss. To assist, Hills has developed an NBN Ready training program to help security companies communicate with end users early to ensure customers don’t reach the copper disconnection stage without their service being migrated.

Checklist for your NBN readiness plan:

* Determine an optimum migration path based on known technical facts.

* Will you migrate using PSTN or other technology such as wireless? Some segments such as commercial customers may be moved directly to cellular/IP.

* Reassure your end users that their alarm will work.

* Proactively communicate and don’t wait for them to ask.

* NBN Co can offer you access to the switchover Disconnection Address Database. Email [email protected] to request access to the disconnection address database.

* This database lists all addresses which are scheduled for disconnection as well as the planned date.

* You can compare this to your own database of customers to identify which ones you need to contact.

* Send them a targeted letter or call them to start the conversation about moving to the NBN.

* Simple advice is better – don’t overload end users with specifics in the first contact; just ask them to contact you so you can provide tailored advice.

* You can do simple things like updating your website with a clear position on NBN compatibility. Make sure you publish a clear call to action for your customers – e.g. “when the NBN is coming to your area, give us a call to discuss moving your alarm onto the NBN.”

* NBN Co. has put together a package of assets, able to be adapted to your business to help keep your customers informed about what needs to be done to migrate their security alarm to a phone service provided by the NBN. Fact sheets on disconnection and migration, template letters for end users
and frequently asked questions for call centre staff are some of the tools available to assist customer communications.

* Most companies have several existing inbound and outbound channels who deal with end users. Make sure those who deal with end users have consistent information.

* Have your team ready to answer commonly asked questions such as:
1. Will my device work on the NBN?
2. If it won’t, do you have a model that does?
3. What service providers over the NBN will best support my device?♦

By Tom Sykes, Hills Ltd