Medical alarms and the NBN

Medical alarm users face a number of hurdles with the continued roll-out of the national broadband access network (NBN). 

 The  NBN project is reaching completion. Over six million Australian homes and businesses are now ready to connect and over three million are using it today.

The NBN project was announced in 2007. Since then, 180,000 people have signed up to the NBN's medical alarm register. But their needs aren't being fully met.

Take for example, the recent controversy about the costs of updating and rewiring for some medical alarm users who are being moved onto the NBN. Most medical alarms operate over the phone line and make calls when the alarm is triggered. The move of medical alarms to the NBN network is not automatic. Any alarms using services that haven't been moved to the NBN network when the existing network is disconnected will stop working.

If your area is slated for the NBN, you will need to talk to your medical alarm provider to find out if your device or service will work on the NBN. The NBN involves new technologies which some existing devices may not be compatible with.

In a bid to resolve the controversy, the NBN Co has announced a trial to assist with the cost of updating medical alarms when connecting to the NBN. The full program will launch in the second half of 2018.

However, there's yet another hurdle. Many alarms on the NBN will not work during a blackout, unlike alarms connected over existing, copper phone lines. NBN Co's only, and unsatisfactory, suggestion is to switch to a mobile phone.

Another obstacle is finding a provider that offers a voice-only service on the NBN as not all telco's provide voice only services. Telstra is one that does. Their cheapest general offer starts at a minimum of $27.95 per month. They have a deal for people with health care and pension cards starting at $25 per month.

The NBN may be Australia's largest ever infrastructure project – but even $49 billion and 13 years hasn't been enough to bring the needs of Australia's most vulnerable to the forefront.

It is still important however to sign up to the NBN's Medical Alarm Register if you need a medical alarm. You can call to register on 1800 227 300.