National Broadband Network switched on in WA

A map of the areas in Mandurah that are connected to the NBN. Photo: Supplied
A map of the areas in Mandurah that are connected to the NBN. Photo: Supplied
A map of the areas in Victoria Park (left) and Geraldton (right) that are connected to the NBN. Photo: Supplied

A map of the areas in Victoria Park (left) and Geraldton (right) that are connected to the NBN. Photo: Supplied

The wait for the National Broadband Network is over – as long as you live in Victoria Park, Geraldton or Mandurah.

Just over 3000 homes and businesses in these areas have been hooked up to the long-awaited NBN, with another 8350 nearby premises set to be connected in the coming months.

Those with access to the network will now be able to sign up to receive broadband at speeds far faster than current internet connections.

Construction of the $37 billion network involves running fibre-optic cables, which can carry more data than existing copper cables, to individual homes and offices.

Federal Resources Minister Gary Gray said the network would be a boon to business communications, allowing people to work from home more easily and helping FIFO workers stay in contact with their families.

Most large mine sites already have superfast fibre internet connections but Mr Gray said the NBN rollout would allow their families back home to access fast internet too, making communications easier.

Nicole Ashby, director of WA-based support organisation FIFO Families, said the NBN would bring FIFO families closer together.

"Imagine being able to see crystal-clear images of your loved ones while away at work," she said.

Most Perth residents will have to wait about three years before their homes are connected to the NBN and the network will not be fully rolled out until 2021.

Once connected, users will be able to access internet download speeds of up to 1000 megabits per second after the network reaches its full speed in December this year.

That is compared with average speeds of around 12 megabits per second for existing connections.

"It can take days to download files of several megabytes – what we're talking about now is that happening in minutes, if not seconds, which makes it a fundamentally different kettle of fish for quality of communication," said NBN Co spokesman Trent Williams.

Planning laws now require new office and residential developments to include fibre internet connections, ensuring that these premises are NBN-ready.

However much of the cost of the NBN project will be spent on replacing existing copper connections with so-called "fibre to the home" – which the federal opposition says is too expensive.

Regional Communications Minister Sharon Bird said the importance of the NBN to people such as FIFO families illustrated why "we need it to go to the home, not just to the corner of the street".

NBN Co's Trent Williams would not be drawn on the cost-benefit aspect of bringing fibre to the home.  "Over the last three and a half years, government policy has been to build fibre to the premise, and we've been doing that. If the government changes its mind, or if a new government comes in, then we will deliver whatever that government requires us to deliver," he said.

NBN customers will still need to sign up with a commercial internet service provider to access superfast broadband, Mr Williams said. But he insisted that prices would not be much higher than current broadband fees.

Subiaco-based internet company iiNet said it had already hooked up 15,000 customers to the superfast fibre network across Australia.

Oliver Wood, managing director of Perth Web Design in East Victoria Park, said fibre-based internet was essential to his business, because he routinely had to send files of 50 megabytes or more to customers.

Mr Wood said his business spent around $7000 on installing fibre to his office before the NBN rollout and paid around $1300 a month in internet fees.

He said his new NBN connection was even quicker, and cost around $150 a month.

He said it was "sheer luck" that he had chosen a business address in one of the first parts of WA to be connected to the NBN.

He said he wouldn't be surprised if other businesses moved to Victoria Park to take advantage of the early access to the network.

"If I hadn't chosen this by chance, I would have definitely been influenced by that decision."

This story National Broadband Network switched on in WA first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.