NBN Co under fire for take-up numbers

NBN Co has been criticised for including former Howard-government's Australian Broadband Guarantee customers in its number of active services on the NBN.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co has come under criticism for conflating the number of active services it has by including transfers from the Howard-era satellite broadband program.

Speaking before Senate Estimates last night, NBN Co's Head of Product Development Jim Hassell updated the committee on the status of the roll-out of the Federal government's AU$37.4 billion National Broadband Network. He said that, as of the end of September, work had commenced or completed at 569,000 premises, and that the company was on track to have started work at 758,000 premises by the end of this year.

Within the 569,000 figure, 32,295 of these premises have been passed by the fibre roll-out. The remaining premises passed will be by fixed wireless or NBN Co's interim satellite service. By the end of the year, Hassell said that 54,300 premises will be passed by fibre.

Hassell said that, as of September 2012, the NBN had 24,000 active services comprising of 6,400 active fibre services, 600 fixed-wireless services, and 17,000 satellite services. Hassell said that 10,000 more had signed up for services between June and September.

Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham accused the company of conflating the numbers by including the customers from the now-defunct Howard-era Australian Broadband Guarantee program in the figures. He said that approximately 9,000 of the customers would have come from that program. NBN Co confirmed to ZDNet that these figures were accurate.

Hassell said that the program would now "ramp-up," and said that by June next year, 286,000 premises will be passed by fibre. The company said it expects there will be 92,000 active services by June next year.

Hassell reiterated his comments last week that customers were overwhelmingly taking up higher tier plans for fibre services on the NBN.

44 percent of customers were on 100 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 40 Mbps up service; 32 percent were on 25 Mbps down/5 Mbps up service; 15 percent were on the basic 12 Mbps down/1Mbps up service; 7 percent were on the 50Mbps down/20 Mbps up service; and 2 percent were on a 25 Mbps down/10 Mbps up.

The average take-up rate for services so far sits at 15 percent, but sits as high as 44 percent in the southern New South Wales town of Kiama.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that the take-up rate would also change after residents learn that Telstra's copper network is being decommissioned, and that they will have to switch to the NBN in order to retain a fixed line broadband service.

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