NBN announces 'simulated training' for contractors

The first of a series of NBN Network Simulated Labs has opened in TAFE NSW's Lidcombe site, with the facilities to provide training and assessment for external workers on network deployment, activation, and maintenance.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has announced the launch of "simulated training facilities" for more than 2,000 of the external workers it has deploying, activating, and maintaining the network in another bid to improve customer experience.

NBN's first Network Simulated Lab is now open at the TAFE NSW Lidcombe campus, with the project part of the company's AU$40 million investment in its Industry Capability Solutions Program to improve the skills of its contractors.

The labs will provide both training and assessments for in-field telco workers by simulating "the variety of challenges and complexities that arise when rolling it out" across every fixed-line network technology, NBN said on Friday.

"Trainees will access every fixed-line technology solution used to deliver the new network and get real-time experiences in connecting pits and pipes to homes and businesses, installing equipment before the network is activated, and helping to resolve connection faults," the company said.

NBN will roll out additional simulated labs throughout the year across the nation, with chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan saying it will help prepare the 30,000 workers in total that NBN has in the field.

"In the last year, we have increased our ability to deliver network installations right the first time from eight out of 10 times to around nine out of 10 today -- the new NBN Network Simulation Labs are part of our plan to ensure we continue to improve," Ryan said.

"We require highly competent, multi-skilled technical workers to not only deploy the network, but also help deliver quality experiences for people who connect to and use the NBN."

The launch follows the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) earlier this week labelling NBN the key driver of consumer telco dissatisfaction, with overall telco industry complaints to the ACCC having jumped by 58 percent during 2016-17.

Complaints regarding NBN services rose "significantly" during the year, the ACCC said, with the most common complaint about misleading or deceptive conduct coming in at 1,831 complaints for the year -- more than double the previous year.

"Issues regarding the migration and connection process as well as the quality and the performance of services over the NBN not meeting expectations are likely to be significant sources of these complaints," the ACCC said.

It has since forced retail service providers (RSPs) Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, and Internode to refund tens of thousands of their NBN customers for misleading or deceptive conduct over not providing them with the speeds they were paying for.

Following widespread criticism and rising complaints, NBN has also been working on improving installation training, advanced fault detection, case management with retailers, and a national awareness campaign on speeds and packages.

The ACCC in December additionally kicked off an inquiry into NBN wholesale service levels on connecting customers, fixing faults, and organising appointments, as well as rebates and compensation for when NBN misses its wholesale service targets after publishing its Communications Sector Market Study: Draft report [PDF] that found "immediate measures" are needed to address consumer dissatisfaction.

Migration and experience issues also "stem from failures in retail and wholesale markets that could largely be overcome through more accurate information, improved information flows, and better coordination", the ACCC said, adding that speed issues can be addressed by improved information from retailers such as abiding by its released guidance on how RSPs should advertise NBN speeds.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is researching NBN migration issues.

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