NBN: More to be done on HFC remediation

NBN is implementing two new HFC optimisation works from the pit to the exchange and from the pit to the home.

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has detailed the remediation work it is undertaking on its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network, saying that while there are "early signs of improvement", more needs to be done.

According to a blog post by NBN chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan, the decision to cease sales on HFC "was one of the toughest we've had to make", but fewer service faults are now being reported to NBN from retailers.

"We now implement two new streams of work to optimise HFC connections on the NBN access network to ensure our equipment has been properly tuned to deliver the best possible service," Ryan wrote.

"The first is what we call 'tap up', which includes everything on NBN Co's side of the network, from the pit in the street right through to the exchanges that connect to the wider internet.

"The other half of the optimisation work focuses on what we call 'tap down', which essentially follows the cables from the pit in your street and into your home where HFC services on the NBN access network are delivered."

In addition, NBN is building more lead-ins and extensions across premises within the frozen footprint, so that homes and businesses can be connected faster once the HFC stop-sell ends in those areas.

"We have also injected extra capacity upgrades to the access network and are working towards introducing the super-fast DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which will be capable of delivering 1Gbps peak wholesale download speeds in the near future," he added.

NBN had relaunched sales on its HFC network last month, starting with 1,000 premises in Sydney and Melbourne on April 27.

The network will be available for retailers to sell in stages, with around 36,000 HFC premises to be released by the end of June in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and the Gold Coast. Around 100,000 premises per month will then be released in the HFC footprint to retail service providers (RSPs).

"We are taking a conservative approach in releasing limited premises back for resale, as we want to ensure we have fully optimised and improved HFC connections on the NBN access network ahead of launching back at scale," Ryan said.

The remediation done so far on the HFC network is equivalent to "flattening and re-tarring the surface of a road", Ryan added.

The percentage of "right the first time" NBN installations has also climbed from 84 percent to 91 percent over the last year.

"To help drive this number up, we have made significant progress in clearing our backlog of 'aged orders'," he said.

"These are complex installations that take more than 28 calendar days for NBN Co to action due to a range of factors such as heritage-listed buildings or needing external approval factors like council approval. We have reduced these aged orders by 76 percent since December 2017."

Lastly, Ryan said NBN is meeting fault restoration timeframe targets 87 percent of the time, up from 60 percent a year ago.

NBN in April said it had "undertaken considerable work" on its HFC technology to ensure improvements across both stability and performance, with the work to continue during the staged release.

Both the federal government and NBN said the pause in selling HFC services would lead to improved migration and service experiences for customers.

"We are confident that when the NBN pause is over and we hit the restart button, the HFC optimisation will deliver a great experience," Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said at the time.

"It will make for a much smoother migration for the remainder of that footprint. Importantly, the pause has allowed more infill lead-ins to be built, which will ultimately make the connection process less complicated."

Speaking to ZDNet last month, Ryan had said the company was "very happy with some of the earlier results we're seeing out of the areas that we have remediated" in the HFC footprint.

At the same time, however, NBN also announced moving 440,000 HFC and fibre-to-the-node premises to its fibre-to-the-curb footprint.

NBN CFO Stephen Rue revealed during Q3 financial results last week that NBN spent AU$1 billion in capital expenditure on HFC in the last nine months due to "design, optimisation, construction activity".

As of March 31, NBN had 413,703 end users on HFC, with 1.4 million HFC premises ready for service and 443,681 HFC premises ready to connect.

Cost per premises (CPP) during the quarter to March 31 was AU$2,404 for HFC, with the network bringing in AU$85 million in revenue during the period.

"In relation to HFC ... despite the pause in activations, we have continued to build out this access network in addition to the remediation work being performed," Rue added.

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