Clean up job stops NBN rollout stats showing the full picture

NBN Co's weekly rollout statistics do not reflect the number of premises that are verging on being ready to connect to the network, with NBN Co withholding some areas from being added to the list while additional construction work is being completed.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

A new document sent to retail service providers and obtained by ZDNet reveals NBN Co is holding back from adding 11 fibre areas where construction is nearing completion to its "premises passed" total, until more customers in those areas have lead-ins installed and can order a service on the NBN.

The change comes as part of NBN Co's year-long "clean up job" to reduce the number of premises counted in the weekly tally as being "passed" by the fibre network, but unable to order a service.

These premises are counted as being in service class zero, or service class one, where the fibre passes the premises but additional construction work, or fibre needs to be laid before the people in the premises are in a position to order a service from their retail service provider.

Across Australia, according to its statistics, NBN Co has passed 21,604 existing premises since June 30, leading to complaints that the network construction has slowed considerably since NBN Co reached its June target, and claims NBN Co will struggle to meet its target to get over 1 million premises covered by the NBN at the end of June 2015.

According to NBN Co's rollout statistics, as of Sunday, NBN Co has only passed an additional 175 existing premises in Tasmania with fibre since June this year.

But in a document issued to retailers last week, NBN Co explained that it was currently withholding a whole six fibre serving areas in Tasmania from being released, and thus being counted in NBN Co's weekly statistics, because NBN Co did not have the resources on the ground to field the number of orders in Tasmania for services on the NBN.

"Demand for NBN Co services in Tasmania is currently under greater than the available NBN Co activations resourcing capacity, which has caused long lead-times for end-users to get an installation appointment. Six FSAMs are approaching RFS [ready for service] in Tasmania, and NBN Co has taken the decision to phase the release of these FSAMs so that lead-times for end-user orders are not extended further," NBN Co said.

The company will also appoint a second contractor to work along side Visionstream, with installation teams are being sourced to alleviate the backlog.

Since April this year, NBN Co has not been declaring an FSAM as "ready for service" to allow retailers to start taking orders until 90 percent of premises are able to order a service on the NBN. This has led some to declare that the roll-out of the NBN is progressing slower than anticipated according to the weekly rollout stats; a claim NBN Co denies.

It is understood that around 40 percent of the work is underway or completed to the 190,000 premises in Tasmania, and a total of 38,491 premises have been passed.

NBN Co said in the letter to service providers that there are another five FSAMs on mainland Australia that it is withholding from release to retailers until the service class zero count is lowered.

NBN Co has been working to reduce this figure across the board for the past few months dropping by 6,226 premises between June and the end of August. In Tasmania alone, it has dropped by 837 premises since June 1.

From October, in addition to the 90 percent passed hurdle before FSAMs are considered ready for service, NBN Co will also require between 30 and 50 percent of premises to be at service class two, that is, with the lead in fibre and a box on the side of a premises installed and ready to order a service, before being released.

At the company's annual results last week, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow said that it would take a year for NBN Co to work to reduce the number of service class zero and service class one premises on the network.

"It's going to take a year to be able to do clean up and get the contracts to where we're rolling down the neighbourhoods in a smooth fashion, so this pain point is going to be with us for a little while," he said.

Ensuring that each premises had a lead-in cable from the footpath to the side of the premises was the cause of a low customer satisfaction rating for NBN Co in the fibre areas, he said.

"That lead-in, when we look at the installations of the past, has only been there for 11 percent of the premises that we've declared 'ready for the service'. So if you think about that, 90 percent of all of the installs that we're trying to do require a construction crew, our delivery partners, to go back to these homes.

"And when they go back there they're identifying civil work issues that they need to do, or remediation issues that require everything from trenching to flushing out pits, they're even clearing the roots of large trees that are in the way to make these lead ins work effectively.

"Now that amount of work is much greater than anybody had thought. The amount of time that one needs to spend at a given home is much greater than anyone thought. And that, therefore, has led to long delays in the installation … amounting to weeks, and even months in some cases before customers can get their service turned on."

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