Customers are picking the top fibre plan that is available on the National Broadband Network (NBN), more than any other plan, CEO Mike Quigley has revealed.
Quigley told a Budget Estimates hearing last night that, of the approximately 3500 customers with active fibre services on the NBN, the 100Mbps down and 40Mbps up plan had proved to be the most popular, so far.
"Overall, 37 per cent of active services on our fibre network have been on the fastest speed tier, which is 100Mbps down and 40Mbps up. Only 18 per cent of the active services on our fibre network are on the entry level speed tier of 12Mbps down and 1Mbps up."
Quigley revealed that 10 per cent of customers were on the 50Mbps plan, and 35 per cent were on the 25Mbps plan. Although NBN Co is far behind the 10,000 customers it had expected to have services active for by 30 June in its original corporate plan, the uptake of the higher tiered plans is much higher than was expected.
NBN Co had previously projected that in 2012, some 52 per cent of active services would be on the entry level tier, with approximately 17 per cent on the 25Mbps plan, 23 per cent take up of 50Mbps plans and only an 8 per cent take up of the top tier 100Mbps plans.
Excluding NBN Co's decision to waive its connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) costs in the initial stages of the roll-out, NBN Co's average revenue per user (ARPU) will stand to be much higher, than initially forecast.
Quigley boasted that the take up of the highest plan was again higher in April, making up 50 per cent of all services activated in April, but he said that the company was expecting this take up to eventually level out across the plans, as all fixed line customers shift from the copper access network to the fibre.
"We expect to see that ratio shifting around a bit," he said.
Across fibre, fixed-wireless and the interim satellite, NBN Co has a total of 11,000 active services, although, it is still in the early trial phase for the fixed-wireless long term evolution (LTE) technology and currently has just 52 trial services.
To take into account the delay in signing the $11 billion agreement with Telstra, and a number of other factors that have impacted on the roll-out, NBN Co has been revising its corporate plan and will submit this new plan to the government by the end of this month.
Quigley said that one of the latest speed bumps to hit NBN Co, was problems with the address data provided by geospatial information company PSMA.
"One of the difficulties we're dealing with now is the accuracy of address files. When you consider [that] we're tasked with building a broadband network to serve all premises, it is understandable that we need highly accurate data on where every premise is, across the nation. This impacts almost every aspect of what we do. From planning and designing the network, to building it and, ultimately, operating it," he said.
"When we try to use the data, there are a number of inconsistencies in it for our use. It's obviously a very useful data set, but it isn't quite what we need to do this job. We're finding that many addresses have been duplicated, are incorrect or are missing. We have cases where many addresses are assigned to a single point, often in the centre of a street. This is particularly an issue [for] multi-dwelling units."
He said that anywhere up to 30 per cent of the data given to NBN Co has been inaccurate, and they are setting about correcting the data by having contractors walk down every street in a fibre-serving area.
"This is time consuming, costly and, itself, prone to error," he said. "That's just a reality of the complexity of dealing with a database that is trying to capture every address in the nation."
Quigley indicated that the completion date of the network roll-out may be pushed back past 2020, but he did not reveal what the new completion date would be. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy also indicated that the initial estimation of the cost of the network ($35.9 billion) would be pushed up slightly by the $800 million Optus deal. This deal will migrate hybrid-fibre coaxial customers onto the NBN, but he said the increase would be marginal and will allow NBN Co to speed up the roll-out.
To promote the three-year roll-out plan, NBN Co allocated $8.2 million to spend on advertising. To date, the company has spent a total of $3.66 million, including funding for live-read ads on Macquarie Radio's conservative flagship station 2GB. Two of the station's hosts — who have been notoriously opposed to the NBN — Ray Hadley and Andrew Moore ad-libbed around the advertorials, which NBN Co quickly withdrew from the station.
NBN Co's chief communications officer Kieran Cooney said that Hadley and Moore were the only two, of the 26 hosts on Macquarie Radio, who did not read the ads clean. Macquarie Radio apologised for the incident and offered an undisclosed amount in compensation to NBN Co, which the company accepted.