NBN FttN users least likely to recommend network, most likely to switch tech

NBN has revealed that 198 of the 221 individual technology choice applications received have been FttN users wanting full fibre, while NBN users are least likely to recommend FttN to others.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has revealed that its fibre-to-the-node (FttN) users are least likely to recommend the network technology to others, with 89.6 percent of all technology choice applications coming from consumers with FttN wanting to move to fibre to the premises (FttP).

According to a response to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, advocacy scores -- a measure of users who have actively recommended the NBN to others -- by each technology sees FttN score the lowest, at 41 percent, followed by hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), at 46 percent; NBN's Sky Muster satellite service, at 49 percent; FttP, at 61 percent; and fixed-wireless, at 75 percent.

Accordingly, the highest number of applications from consumers wanting to change technologies has come from FttN users: 198 of the 221 individual premises switch applications received by NBN as of March 23 were FttN users wanting to change to FttP, with 81 individual switch quotes then supplied to these users.

No customers have applied to switch from HFC to FttP.

As of March 23, NBN has earned AU$225,305 in application fees and AU$371,590 in design and build fees under the individual premises switch process.

NBN said the lowest cost for its tech choice program saw it charge a customer AU$983, while the highest involved charging a customer AU$157,126 "to move a complex facility from fixed-wireless to FttP".

The highest quote provided for an FttN-to-FttP switch was AU$61,600, with the average cost for those who have been provided with a build quote standing at AU$15,800.

Of these 221 individual switch applications, 113 customers have received quotes -- 67 in new South Wales, 23 in Queensland, eight in Victoria, seven in Western Australia, and four apiece in South Australia and Tasmania. While three consumers living in the Northern Territory made an application for an individual switch, none of these proceeded to the quotation stage.

NBN said 34 customers have now opted to take up the technology choice program, with 30 already proceeding to construction.

The 15 technology choice customers previously mentioned by NBN were named as being located in Picton, Armidale, and Boambee, NSW; Bacchus Marsh, Victoria; Beaconsfield, Bundaberg, and Bundaberg North, Queensland; Dayton, Pinjarra, and Meru, Western Australia; North Brighton, South Australia; and Deloraine, Tasmania.

Another form of technology switch -- in which NBN is temporarily placing some living in the fixed-wireless footprint onto the satellite service after switching off the Interim Satellite Service in February -- has seen 300 customers migrated to Sky Muster satellite because fixed-wireless is still being rolled out to their premises.

Between November 2016 and March 2017, 2,835 premises have also been changed from a fixed-wireless service class to a satellite service class as a result of poor signals, amounting to 6 percent of all fixed-wireless activation orders received.

NBN revealed that premises within 6km and line of sight of its tower in Birregurra, Victoria, are unable to receive a fixed-wireless service due to "radio frequency interference risks that would compromise performance for premises in and around that region" -- which it claimed was not a planning error but a foreseen issue.

In regards to the oft-complained about delays in being connected to the network, NBN said the rate of overall missed appointments was 10.8 percent in 2016 for all network technologies.

As of April 10, NBN said there are 128 customers still awaiting Sky Muster connectivity, 85 of which had requested to be switched over prior to the ISS' switch-off. NBN confirmed that not all ISS customers in Tasmania have been switched over, with an order in progress for all of these.

The company told Senate Estimates that once NBN receives a satellite order, 89 percent of customers have an appointment set within five days, with NBN adding that it has not been asked to make payments to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on any Sky Muster issues.

The 12-week average waiting time experienced by 30 percent of Sky Muster customers as stated in October last year has since improved to affect only 14 percent of customers, NBN added.

In regards to a causal link between speed tiers and data consumption, NBN would not provide data into this for its fixed-line or fixed-wireless networks, citing commercial interests.

Satellite users, who are stuck on a maximum speed tier of 25Mbps download and a data cap of 150GB, are consuming an average of 24GB.

Average monthly download for all NBN users as of December 2015 was 112GB, up from 75GB in December 2014, NBN added.

No legislation stopping NBN from becoming mobile provider

In response to a Question on Notice from Senator Anne Urquhart, NBN further admitted that there is no legislation preventing it from becoming a wholesale operator of a mobile network.

"The current legislation does not prevent NBN Co Limited (NBN Co) using any particular type of technology," NBN said.

"However, NBN Co's Statement of Expectations focuses on NBN Co providing services to premises (i.e. fixed locations)."

Vodafone Australia had last month argued in its submission to the Joint Standing Committee that NBN should provide a wholesale mobile service using its fixed-wireless infrastructure in order to allow mobile carriers to expand coverage throughout regional and rural areas across the country.

Calling the fixed-wireless network an "under-utilised" asset, Vodafone's said this would "maximise the benefit" of the millions of dollars being spent on building out the NBN.

"Delivery of a wholesale mobile service via fixed-wireless towers ... NBN Co's fixed-wireless is effectively delivered on the same LTE 4G network as is deployed by mobile operators, so could be accommodated relatively easily," Vodafone recommended.

"Given the large land area and low population density of regional Australia, it has to be asked whether scarce investment should be directed towards fewer networks which are either shared or provide wholesale services to multiple retailers."

NBN could alternatively share spectrum, fixed-wireless towers, equipment, and transmission and satellite backhaul with mobile carriers, Vodafone suggested.

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