NBN Co boasts rollout stats ahead of marathon committee hearing

Ahead of an all-day Senate Select Committee hearing, NBN Co has said that it has beat its revised forecast for premises ready for service on the fibre network as of the end of June.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co executives will likely tell a Senate Select Committee on Friday that NBN Co has beaten its fibre network roll-out targets for the end of June this year, with over 380,000 brownfields premises "ready for service".

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow and four of his top executives will front the Senate Select Committee for the National Broadband Network (NBN) from 9am AEST until 4pm AEST to discuss the state of the company's overhaul and the network roll-out since Morrow was appointed to the CEO job under the new Coalition government.

In a statement released ahead of his appearance today, Morrow pointed to the roll-out statistics released weekly by NBN Co, and said that the company had beaten its own target of 357,000 existing premises passed by fibre at the end of June.

"We are proud of the momentum and the progress we have made to stabilise the rollout. At June 30 2014, the network had been made ready for service for 658,000 premises, we had activated more than 210,000 homes and businesses and had made substantial steps in our transformation strategy," he said.

As of July 6, 385,876 existing premises were counted as passed by the NBN fibre network. Before the release of the strategic review, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had said 450,000 existing premises would be passed by fibre, but this was revised down to 357,000 in the strategic review.

NBN Co has also ceased using the original measurement for "premises passed", instead as of May only adding premises to the "premises passed" number once 90 percent of a fibre-serving area had been passed by the NBN. NBN Co's chief operations officer Greg Adcock explained to a Budget Estimates hearing in May that this was changed to make it easier for retail service providers to know where to market.

"That is because of discussion with the RSP industry, who were getting somewhat challenged by the fact that small pockets were being released at points in time rather than whole FSAMS and it was consuming their marketing budgets and confusing people in areas where one FDA had been released instead of a whole FSAM," he said.

"Decisions have been taken to go back to the way the contracts were originally structured and that we only declare premises passed when the 90 per cent of the FSAM is filled. That will be the differential between the actual physical premises passed from a construction perspective, which we do not declare because they are not ready for service and RSPs cannot sell into them, and the number that we report now on our website, which is those that are ready for service and so the RSPs can actually sell into them."

NBN Co said that under the old measurement, NBN Co would be closer to 422,000 premises passed as of the end of June.

The "Ready for Service" figure also includes those premises that are counted as passed but cannot yet order a service because NBN Co needs to install equipment or the premises needs a line in cable. At the end of June this figure stood at 99,852 premises.

There were now over 107,000 active users on the NBN in brownfields areas, and 46,000 in new housing estates. Including the interim satellite service and the fixed wireless service, there were now more than 213,000 users on the NBN as of July 6.

NBN Co said it had managed to improve the roll out in new housing estates, passing 111,000 premises, and in the last 12 months, 366 fixed wireless towers were switched on, covering 112,000 premises.

"While there has been an ongoing effort throughout the year, these achievements are a result of the hardworking employees, contractors and third party partners under the direction of a new leadership team," Morrow said.

"We have seen a significant uplift in performance and morale in the past several months. This is important not only because we have surpassed our forecast, but because the team has done so in a year of incredible uncertainty and change."

Morrow said the company still had to improve its customer satisfaction rating during installation, which has been marred by lengthy delays between a customer ordering a service from a retail service provider, and NBN Co connecting the customer up to the network.

"While we still have a way to go on customer satisfaction during the installation process in particular, I believe we have identified some of the root causes behind some of the more common poor customer experiences. We will work hard to bring our scores up. At year end we achieved a customer satisfaction score of 6.4, just shy of a 6.7 target," he said.

Morrow and his team are likely to face questions on the assumptions made in the strategic review, the fibre to the node network trials, and the ongoing negotiations with Telstra over access to the copper network, which had originally been forecast to be completed by the middle of this year.

Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy warned at the Budget Estimates hearing that the executives would be spending a lot of time in front of the Senate Select committee after the last hearing was cut short by half an hour by Coalition senators.

"It just means I will call them back for six hours next time, instead of three hours," he warned.

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