Two years until NBN hits peak roll-out

Two years until NBN hits peak roll-out

Summary: It may still be two years before NBN Co begins rolling out fibre to 6000 premises a day, according to chief operating officer Ralph Steffens.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

It may still be two years before NBN Co begins rolling out fibre to 6000 premises a day, according to chief operating officer Ralph Steffens.

Following Thursday's announcement of NBN Co's three-year roll-out plan to reach 3.5 million premises, NBN Co has entered the volume phase of its roll-out. However, Steffens told journalists yesterday that the company expects it will take between 18 and 24 months to reach the estimated peak roll-out speed of 6000 premises a day.

Steffens re-iterated comments by NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley, saying the main objective was to ensure that there would be a continuous roll-out over that time.

"The worst thing you can do with infrastructure projects is starting and stopping, so the last piece of work we did was we ensured we had continuation in the program. That means if we start somewhere in the region, we keep going until we're finished. That's incredibly important," he said.

"That also means that some of the parameters we put in are marginally off. Like equal share between the states. The reason for that is to ensure where we start, we keep going until we finish and that means smaller regions like the Northern Territory ... will finish much earlier than the 10 years."

The company will stay at peak roll-out speed for the remainder of the 10 years, Steffen said, as it would scale down quickly towards the end of the roll-out.

Now the NBN Co has the job of renegotiating construction contracts to see the company through to the end of the three-year roll-out. The contracts that have been signed to this point only last for two years. Tasmania is the only state for which NBN Co has signed a contract already for the entirety of the state's roll-out, to be completed in 2015.

"Our current contracts on the mainland are two-year contracts, which are due to be renegotiated in the not-too-distant future, but we have partners to work everywhere," Steffens said.

Although NBN Co wasn't working to a timetable of getting contracts locked down before the next federal election, where a coalition win may see those contracts change, Steffens indicated that he expected these contracts to be sorted before June 2013, and likely before the next election.

Steffens also rejected Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's prediction that the amount of premises passed by 2015 will be much lower than NBN Co has forecast.

"In terms of the numbers, we are confident we have an executable plan," he said.

Kieren Cooney, chief communications officer for NBN Co, said that it was "odd" to compare trial construction numbers with the main roll-out.

"The fundamental comparison is odd," he said. "One is a trial set of sites that were not to move at scale ... to see how it rolls out with temporary arrangements and the other is a full roll-out. To extrapolate the trial which was never built for anything other than a trial situation into a full-scale roll-out misses what the trial was about."

Steffens said that since NBN Co now had its construction supply chain in place and the $11 billion Telstra contract signed, it could roll-out in scale.

While the plans currently indicate where construction will begin rather than where it will be completed, Cooney said that when construction begins is more important to the community than when it's ready.

"To local communities, understanding when work is commencing in the community and what that means is very, very important."

Although NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley had indicated that Telstra was keen for the copper line to be switched off when fibre was ready in a community earlier than the 18-month time frame set out in the Telstra deal, Cooney said that the 18-month buffer was there to protect the community. Telstra would only switch off the copper quicker than that if retail service providers had already migrated all the customers onto the NBN.

Once the roll-out is completed, Steffens said he expects NBN Co to be upgrading Alcatel-Lucent's GPON equipment to handle faster speeds than the maximum 100 megabits per second available on the National Broadband Network (NBN) today.

"The world doesn't stop at 100Mbps," he said. "We are going to finish the project very different to how we started."

Towns opposing the NBN towers to get satellite

Residents in areas covered by the fixed wireless NBN where councils reject tower applications may face the prospect of only connecting via satellite, according to Cooney.

For four of the last 7 per cent of Australian premises not covered by the fibre roll-out, NBN Co will be providing a long-term evolution (LTE) "4G" fixed-wireless network. NBN Co is seeking to co-locate in a number of existing telecommunications towers for this network, but the company will need to co-locate or build 2300 towers for the entire network to be completed by 2015.

Late last year, contractors acting on behalf of NBN Co began lodging a number of plans with local councils for a number of towers and ran into resistance from local residents. One tower application NBN Co had expressed interest in co-locating on in Buninyong, south of Ballarat, was rejected last month.

Cooney told journalists yesterday that NBN Co had a role to play in speaking with the community about why the company was rolling out fixed-wireless infrastructure to those areas, and to make sure NBN Co was talking with the local councils too, but he said ultimately it was the council's decision and NBN Co had to live with that if councils rejected tower plans.

Cooney said NBN Co could find alternatives, but for critical relay towers that propagate signal to other NBN Co towers, it could cut off whole areas to NBN Co's fixed-wireless service.

"By certain sites not becoming available what it means is whole areas of fixed wireless cannot become available. We face the reality of that's what the community's representatives have decided is the best thing for that community and then we don't face a lot of options," he said. "We can go and come back, of course, [and] we'll look for other options or it'll be served by satellite."

This month NBN Co has also begun trialling its fixed-wireless network in Armidale, where ZDNet Australia understands a handful of customers are already connected. iiNet announced yesterday that it had successfully trialled customers in Armidale, and iiNet subsidiary Internode would also trial customers this month. iiNet has unveiled pricing for its commercial plans to be launched next month starting at $49.95 per month for 20GB on-peak and 20GB off-peak. Internode has plans ranging from $49.95 per month for 30GB up to 1TB for $139.95.


Although Huawei has been banned by the government from tendering for the NBN, Huawei Australia chairman John Lord told ABC1's Inside Business on Sunday that there were non-core parts of the NBN that would be more suitable for Huawei to tender for in the future. Steffens said that NBN Co "has completed [its] tender process at this stage" and was not in the market to tender.

Despite this, Lord said that Huawei was in Australia for the long term.

"NBN's not the only game in town. Our future in Australia is long term. We're here to stay and we believe there's bigger markets. What hangs off a national telecommunications infrastructure is where the real market is in the future."

Topics: NBN, Broadband


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Although NBNCo are calling it a three year plan, it is really a 4.5 year plan. Some premises (e.g. Wooden, ACT & Hoopers Crossing, VIC) don't start detailed design until September 2015 and won't be connected until September 2016.

    If we assume that NBNCo will reach the peak rollout speed (6000 premises a day, page 77 NBNCo Corporate Plan) by June 2015, then that means that 1.5 million premises will be passed between July 2015 and June 2016. Meaning only 2 million premises will be connected at the end of June 2015.
    • "Although NBNCo are calling it a three year plan, it is really a 4.5 year plan." It sounds almost like you're trying to make this a negative?

      Are you really implying that they are doing something wrong for releasing additional planning?

      Seems so backwards...
      • Give him a break Paranoid.

        Over the last 6 months the poor sod has only had one topic which he though he could use to bag the NBN daily... 50 % will connect at 12/1 - pg 118...LOL!

        He can now bombard us daily for the next 6 with this newy, whether it's a negative or not.

        Funny though, if you mention other projections, such as repayment by 2034 and the NBN being profitable, he's not so gung-ho about NBNCo's projections... *sigh*
        • > Funny though, if you mention other projections, such as repayment by 2034 and the NBN being profitable, he's not so gung-ho about NBNCo's projections... *sigh*

          I don't believe I've ever criticised the ability of NBNCo to meet the financial projections. I have highlighted that NBNCo are planning to double ARPU and that if NBNCo don't meet take-up targets, then merely not decreasing prices for CVC / AVC (page 132 of NBNCo Corporate Plan) should enable them to deliver the 7% RoI. Of course this means prices remain higher for the high end users.
          • You haven't? Well in that case, my apologies, I must be mistaking you for one of the "others"

            So, which page was that 2034 pay back projection on then?

            Because unlike the 50% 12/1 you tell us about almost daily, I don't think you have ever pointed this page out to us, even when the FUDsters having been repeating the white elephant Lib mating call... curious.
        • Page 118 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 119 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 120 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 121 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 122 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 123 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 124 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Page 125 of the NBN corporate plan!
          Lisa needs braces!
          Hubert Cumberdale
          • +1
          • Hey Hubert...from the ZOMFG files...

            Guess who's still crying 50% - 12/1, in blogs today...LOL


            Gotta give the NBN hating FUDsters credit for loyalty to the party, because really, why else would anyone intentionally ignore the truth and continually post such BS?
          • I wish I could laugh with you beta but someone told me he was autistic, that is no laughing matter, Doubt says that I was being "unkind" but he obviously misunderstood my comment below. You should take this into consideration when evaluating those comments from now on.
            Hubert Cumberdale
      • NBNCo have a history of stretching the truth. Some areas in stage 2 maps released before the last election will not be receiving the NBN until after September 2016.

        Gillard and Co have promoted 1Gbps connections, but they are prohibitively expensive because NBNCo have chosen to make an abundant resource (fibre bandwidth) scarce. NBNCo are predicting that only 1% will connect at 1Gbps in 2026 (page 118 of NBNCo Corporate Plan). Meanwhile almost 50% of the have-nots on fibre will still be connecting at 12/1Mbps.
        • Stretching the truth according to whom?

          Seems the tall poppy is rearing it's ugly head again.

          But thanks for adding the 50% - 12/1 (wouldn't be the same without the rep-e-**** ion...). Because I consider my self a have but I am currently "paying for a 20Mbps plan and receiving less than 6 Mbps".

          Curious. NBN have not's have more than current non-NBN have's... sounds about right!

          Thanks for clearing that up.
          • Hey Beta did you notice how he's now citing 2026 as the year of the must have 1gbps connection (Apparently faster speeds are need after all). I guess the other 62% (it's actually 62%, he can't read graphs) on higher than 12/1mbps connections don't count now. I mean it didn't count when 100/40mbps was the maximum speed you could get why should 2026 be any different when you can make it seem even more dire... but seriously it's probably a good thing people like this cannot afford more than 12/1mbps if you think about it. The last thing we need is a bunch of autistic zombies video conferencing with each other lol.
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Indeed Hubert, who needs fast white elephants ;-)
          • Hubert, a little unkind to those in society who are affected by autism. They do have a hard enough time without those types of comments. One for the "Hall of Shame".
            Knowledge Expert
          • It's OK, he's a Liberal; voter. That's how they think.
        • First, this doesnt really show why the NBN releasing 4.5 years of planning is a bad thing. If in 4.5 years what they planned wasn't done, then sure. But how is more info to the public a bad thing in this case.

          "Meanwhile almost 50% of the have-nots on fibre will still be connecting at 12/1Mbps."

          That 50% will have the option to go to whatever speed they want, "Have-nots" implies they dont have a choice, which is not at all the case.
          • "That 50% will have the option to go to whatever speed they want, "Have-nots" implies they dont have a choice, which is not at all the case."

            Paranoid, I'll explain how this one works so you can save yourself the trouble.

            Ma and Pa connect to the internet using ADSL2, they pay $60 a month as that is the cheapest option available to them and they get ~14mbps. When the NBN rolls out they have a choice, pay exactly the same amount and get faster speeds (25/5mbps) or save some money and go with 12/1mbps option, they choose the slower option saving themselves $10 a month… thus using that logic even though they made a choice they are "forced" to use 12/1mbps.

            Of course the thing people who can't comprehend the information in the plan correctly fail to realise is that the numbers NBNco are predicting will connect at higher speeds is a minimum, it does in no way exclude anyone from connecting at any faster speeds if they wish. No one is bound by the by the NBNco corporate plan to choose 12/1mbps connections just because it "said so". In fact some ISPs aren't even bothering with 12/1mbps fibre plans, I'm not surprised but I guess someone forgot to tell them they have to because it's on page ### of the NBN corporate plan???
            Hubert Cumberdale
        • "NBNCo have chosen to make an abundant resource (fibre bandwidth) scarce"

          Haha! Funniest thing I have read all day.

          FYI NBNco hasn't "chosen to make an abundant resource (fibre bandwidth) scarce". We can't just give everyone gigabit or terabit connections. Fibre bandwidth isn't unlimited which is why there needs to be a way of rationing it out. $x for xMb/s and xGB of downloads is how it's being rationed out.
          Sure you could just use more fibre and more equipment to provide "unlimited bandwidth" but that would be ridiculously expensive. So to make it more economical NBNco is rationing out the bandwidth.

          Not sure if you will understand all of that but that is why you are full of you know what.

          Ok I'm done. 'mathew42' is clearly a troll, let's stop stop feeding the troll and hopefully it will go back under his bridge.
  • The roll out plan is very ambitious if you consider inner city suburbs such as Redfurn in Sydney with narrow streets and high density housing. I also wonder about the streets with many unit blocks.
    Btw, does anyone know if the pilot period has finished?
    Knowledge Expert
    • If NBNco didn't have use of Telstras ducts then yes it would be an ambitious plan. But NBNco do and it's not. Pulling cable through conduits isn't rocket science. It's just replacing one type of cable with another, i.e. replacing copper with fibre. Part of the work that will be done will also include patching up a network that has been neglected for years, i.e. replacing ducting that isn't fit for use.

      The real challenge is dealing with all the FUD and other political BS surrounding the NBN. It's unfortunate that the government has done a poor job of on selling the NBN (on that front they have royally screwed up) which hasn't done anything to help quash all the FUD spread about the NBN.