The Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has revealed that consumer complaints about delays in being connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) have dropped over the first two quarters of the 2016-17 financial year.
Complaints about NBN connection delays 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 premises connected during Q4 to 279,639 connected in Q1 and 274,291 connected in Q2.
"The primary type of complaint relating to connections is delay, making up 90 percent of all connection complaints about services delivered over the NBN," the TIO said in its submission to the NBN Joint Standing Committee, which was flagged in its response to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice.
"Key issues contributing to connection delays include missed technician appointments, infrastructure, and the complexity of some installations."
While connection delay complaints fell, however, fault issues rose during the same period: There were 2,113 complaints during the fourth quarter of the 2015-16 financial year. This dropped to 1,988 complaints during the first quarter of FY17, but then rose again to 2,460 complaints in the second quarter.
The number of premises activated during this time grew more sharply than the rise in fault complaints, however; there were 1.1 million premises connected as of the end of Q4, and 1.65 million as of Q2 FY17.
NBN usually correlates its rises in complaints to the increasing rollout of its network.
"The NBN network is rapidly growing in size; in the last financial year, we more than doubled the number of serviceable premises to almost 1.2 million premises from 485,000 in the previous financial year," an NBN spokesperson said in response to the TIO's Annual Report for 2015-16, which revealed that NBN consumer complaints were up by 99.6 percent compared to a year earlier.
"With this rapid increase in end users and construction activity, an increase in the number of issues reported to the TIO is to be expected. From an NBN perspective, one fault or complaint is one too many, and we will continue to enhance our construction and activation processes and work with our RSPs to improve service levels and customer satisfaction."
The TIO this week pointed to infrastructure difficulties, technician appointment systems, early termination fees, and sales and marketing practices as examples of fault-related complaints it received over the half year.
It also made a note of the many issues NBN's Sky Muster satellite service has been experiencing.
"The TIO is aware of issues with satellite services. For example, at a meeting with retail service providers offering satellite broadband services to regional, rural, and remote consumers, members told the TIO there were ongoing issues with service instability, service disruption and slow reconnection times associated with the satellite services," the ombudsman's NBN committee submission said.
"The TIO has met with NBN to discuss how to better respond to complaints about satellite services. Following this, the TIO changed its process to notify NBN about complaints relating to satellite services."
The federal opposition earlier this week called for an independent expert review of NBN's satellite service, saying the installation issues, data caps, outages, and lack of transparency between NBN and its retail service providers (RSPs) need to be examined.
"An inquiry would establish what assumptions are being made about data needs, usage, and allocation," Shadow Regional Communications Minister Stephen Jones said on Tuesday.
This was despite Labor being responsible for ordering NBN's two new Ka-band satellites, which were labelled as being unnecessary "Rolls-Royce" satellites by then-opposition communications leader Malcolm Turnbull, who has since revised his opinion to "world class".
The South Australian government similarly used its NBN Joint Standing Committee submission to say Sky Muster should be a "last resort" because it is a form of geographical-based discrimination, while the Queensland government said use of "lower-grade" NBN services for those living in regional and remote areas of Australia is unacceptable and inequitable.
The Northern Territory government slammed NBN's "technically inferior" satellite service.