NBN reduces peak funding to AU$51b

NBN has decreased the total number of premises in Australia by 200,000 and reduced peak funding to AU$51 billion at maximum, reducing its FttN footprint and increasing those covered by HFC.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has again reduced its peak funding estimation, and is now forecast to be in the range of AU$47 billion to AU$51 billion.

NBN's Corporate Plan 2017, unveiled on Thursday morning, showed its base case remaining at AU$49 billion after last year's expected range of up to AU$54 billion -- which was itself reduced from 2015's range of AU$46 billion to AU$56 billion.

According to NBN, the lower peak funding case will hold "if the revenue drivers evolve more beneficially, the activations profile for FttN and HFC can be accelerated, and capex and opex are lower than expected".

The lower peak funding was also due to NBN reducing the number of total forecast premises to be passed by the end of the rollout by 200,000 thanks to more accurate geo mapping, meaning the rollout will be 97 percent complete by June 2019.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow told ZDNet that these 200,000 premises have mainly been removed from the fibre-to-the-node (FttN) footprint.

However, when taking into account the approximate 100,000 premises that will be built between 2020 and 2021, Morrow said the network will be fully completed at such new developments by FY21.

As a result, NBN has this time included FY21 in its forecasts.

NBN will now have 11.6 million premises ready for service (RFS) by FY2020, with 8.1 million to have an active service by then; 11.7 million will be RFS by FY21, and 8.6 million will be activated by FY21.

The number of premises to be RFS by the end of the rollout reduced by 1.5 million for FttN and FttB, from 6.1 million down to 4.6 million, and increased for HFC by 0.3 million, from 2.8 million to 3.1 million.

This was partly due to expanding the fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) footprint out to 1 million premises, and to reducing the NBN footprint by 200,000 premises.

"Our strategy remains unchanged to have the network built and 8 million premises connected to an NBN service by 2020, within peak funding of AU$49 billion and IRR of 3.2 percent to 3.7 percent," Morrow said.

"We have made slight changes to the FY2018 incremental footprint, with 200,000 fewer premises expected to exist, and around 200,000 premises shifted into FY2019 to receive our network upgrade to FttC technology.

"FttC is currently expected to support 1 million premises, and we continue to look for ways to make it cost effective to hopefully expand that footprint further. As planned, we will launch FttC in 2018."

The new base case shows that 1.9 million, or 17 percent of premises, will be covered by fibre to the premises (FttP); 5.6 million, or 48 percent, by FttN, fibre to the basement (FttB), and FttC; 3.1 million, or 27 percent, by hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC); and 1 million, or 8 percent, by satellite and fixed wireless.

NBN is predicting premises RFS of 8.7 million in FY18, with 4.4 million activated as of the end of the FY18 financial year.

The RFS targets for FttP brownfields, FttP greenfields, fixed-wireless, and satellite all remained the same, at 1.2 million, 0.8 million, 0.6 million, and 0.4 million, respectively.

NBN has forecast its revenue to reach AU$1.9 billion in FY18, AU$3.5 billion in FY19, AU$4.9 billion in FY20, and AU$5.4 billion in FY21; and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of negative AU$3.4 billion in FY18, negative AU$2.4 billion in FY19, positive AU$0.7 billion in FY20, and positive AU$2.2 billion in FY21.

Capex is predicted to be AU$7 billion in FY18, AU$4.2 billion in FY19, AU$1.6 billion in FY20, and AU$0.6 billion in FY21; while opex is expected to be AU$2.4 billion in FY18, AU$2.5 billion in FY19 AU$2.7 billion in FY20, and AU$2.9 billion in FY21.

Cost per premises (CPP) has seen FttP brownfields expected to be AU$4,400; FttP greenfields cost AU$2,100; FttN cost AU$2,300; FttC cost AU$2,900; HFC cost AU$2,300; and fixed-wireless cost AU$4,300 -- the last of which was reduced by AU$300 from last year due to "initiatives that have increased, on average, the number of premises covered by each tower".

NBN is predicting its 25/5Mbps speed tier to remain "pretty much where it is now", Morrow said, while the higher tiers of 100/40Mbps and 50/20Mbps will grow by 2021 as uptake of 12/1Mbps shrinks.

NBN said it is planning to conduct further trials into G.fast technology to "gain a better understanding of how the technology will perform in a range of operational circumstances", including on its FttN, FttB, and FttC networks.

NBN last week announced its FY16 results, revealing EBITDA of negative AU$1.572 billion, a 39 percent increase from last year's negative AU$1.13 billion.

Revenue for the 12-month period was AU$421 million, a year-on-year increase of 157 percent from the AU$164 million announced in FY15.

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