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Fifield: 90 percent of NBN connections done right the first time

NBN gets nine out of 10 connections 'right the first time', Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has said.

Connections to the National Broadband Network (NBN) are done right around 90 percent of the time now, Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has said.

Speaking during ABC's Insiders on Sunday morning, Fifield responded to complaints about NBN connection time frames and delays.

"NBN, when they're connecting people, gets it right first time on about 9 out of 10 occasions -- but I never want to diminish in any way the experience that someone has if it's not all that it should be," Fifield said.

Fifield added that NBN and the government are both working towards improving NBN end-user experiences in two ways.

"Firstly, we want to improve and are improving the migration process," he said on Sunday.

"Secondly, when it comes to the experience that people actually have on the network, one of the issues is retail service providers -- Telstra, Optus, TPG -- whether they purchase enough capacity to service their customers. Now, we have instructed the ACCC to undertake performance monitoring, speed monitoring, where there will be 4,000 probes embedded in premises around the country and people will have visibility of the service that's actually being provided.

"The ACCC has also issued fresh guidance to retailers to make sure that their advertising is clear for consumers -- something that it hasn't always been."

At the end of August, retail service providers (RSPs) including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG announced that they had committed to working together to improve the customer experience in migrating onto the NBN.

"The government yesterday convened an industry roundtable to secure joint action to better support customers during the peak rollout period," Fifield said last month.

"The roundtable heard from chief executive officers of the Communications Alliance, NBN, Optus, Telstra, TPG, and Vocus, along with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)."

Issues to be addressed include providing more useful information to customers about the migration and who to complain to if speeds or services are below expectations; better handling customer complaints; and improving the lead times for connections and rescheduled appointments through changes to contracts.

The ACCC also published guidance last month saying NBN RSPs should package and advertise their fixed-line services along the lines of evening peak speeds in order to improve accuracy and prevent misleading claims.

The "basic evening speed" category would apply to 12/1Mbps NBN Ethernet bitstream services; "standard evening speed" would involve 25/5Mbps plans with 15Mbps minimum speeds during typical busy periods; "standard plus evening speed" would be for 50/20Mbps services with a minimum busy period speed of 30Mbps; and "premium evening speed" would be for 100/40Mbps services with a minimum of 60Mbps.

The ACMA is also set to investigate customer experience in moving across to the NBN after the government ordered it to look into the matter.

"21 industry participants including retailers, wholesale providers, and NBN Co Ltd will receive notices seeking a range of data on issues such as fault handling, connection timeframes, appointment keeping, telephone number porting, and more," Fifield said last month.

"This information will be used to identify where customer issues most commonly arise and how those issues can be either avoided or resolved more quickly. It will also help reduce the passing of customer complaints between retailers and NBN."

It was revealed in August that the transition of customers to the NBN has been causing an upswing in complaints, with hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) customers switching between RSPs a recent issue.

"Aussie Broadband can confirm that we are currently escalating about 30 percent of customer connections that are using HFC technology," Aussie Broadband acting managing director John Reisinger told ZDNet.

"We are working closely with NBN Co to improve this figure."

In response, NBN created a dedicated churn team to work through issues as quickly as possible.

"We acknowledge there have been some delays in the HFC rollout due to high end-user demand and the complexity involved in connecting some premises to the NBN HFC network," an NBN spokesperson said.

"With respect to churn, in some cases this is taking longer than we would like ... we have stood up a dedicated team to resolve churn orders as quickly as possible and identify root cause for ongoing improvement."

In May, the TIO's consumer complaints statistics for the second half of calendar 2016 revealed that NBN complaints had doubled again, although Ombudsman Judi Jones pointed out that the rate of increase in NBN's complaints was slower than the rate of premises being connected.

According to NBN, when taking into account the number of new premises activated, its complaints actually fell by 30 percent since the most recent half-year period.

The TIO also revealed that complaints about NBN connection delays had dropped from 1,669 complaints in the fourth quarter of 2015-16 to 1,545 in the first quarter of FY17, and then further down to 1,539 in the second quarter of the financial year.

This came despite the number of premises connected during the quarter increasing from 195,686 during Q4 to 279,639 in Q1 and 274,291 in Q2.