Despite the setback, the NBN is still on track for 2020 completion, the company says.
While there was no change in the number of premises “ready to connect” during the last quarter of 2017, NBN Co says it is still on track to complete the initial build of the network by 2020.
NBN Co’s report for the half year to December 2017 shows that approximately 700,000 more premises were made “ready for service” during the last three months of 2017, bringing the total to 7.1 million. Yet the number that are ready to connect flat-lined at 6.1 million, which is approximately half of the homes and business premises around the country.
The ready for service number shows the total number of premises in areas where service is available, whereas ready to connect excludes any premises that cannot currently be served within those areas. For example, a house in an FTTN area might be so far from the nearest node that it can't be connected using that technology, or a building in an HFC area might be set further back from the street than the maximum lead-in length.
The moratorium on new HFC connections appears to be a large part of the reason why the ready to connect number has remained static since the last quarterly report, as it means that premises located in active HFC areas but not actually connected to the NBN have moved back from “ready for service” to “ready to connect”.
HFC is the only technology where the number of ready to connect premises has fallen since the previous half-yearly report – from 608,165 to 442,419 – even though the HFC ready for service number shot up from 758,416 to 1,358,295 premises.
NBN Co gave no indication of how long it will be before HFC activations resume, merely stating “the pause on sales will be in effect until this fieldwork is complete.”
Returning to overall numbers, of the 6.1 million ready to connect premises, almost 3.4 million have an active service – a significant improvement on the 2.9 million at the end of the previous quarter.
Backing up NBN Co’s claim that it is still on track to complete the rollout by 2020, CEO Bill Morrow said: “As at 31 December 2017, more than 95 percent of households and businesses are in design, construction or are already able to order a service over the NBN access network.”
Morrow also pointed to work underway to increase the likelihood of new installations working first time, the development of more advanced fault-detection technology, and tweaks to the wholesale pricing model to help improve broadband speeds and service during peak hours.
He also noted the successful customer trials of FTTC (fibre to the curb) in Victoria, and the plans to use G.Fast technology for faster speeds on FTTB (fibre to the basement) and FTTC.