NBN target easier to beat than we expected: Switkowski

NBN Co executive chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski has admitted that NBN Co's low target for existing premises passed by fibre at the end of June this year is likely to be easily beaten.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co will likely pass its target for 357,000 existing premises passed by fibre as of June 30, 2014, executive chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski has admitted.

The target was revised down from 450,000 to 357,000 premises to be passed by the fibre network in NBN Co's strategic review released in December, and the company blamed the Christmas shutdown period for the reason why NBN Co believed it would not be able to achieve its previous target.

An analysis by ZDNet in January showed that NBN Co was easily on target to beating the goal, given the company's run rate has been, on average, 4,500 premises passed per week. NBN Co's chief operations officer Greg Adcock said on Friday that the company's run rate would be around 6,000 premises per week by the end of June this year, meaning the company would more than easily surpass its target on that date.

In response to a question from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in a Senate Estimates hearing today, Switkowski said it is entirely possible that NBN Co could exceed 400,000 premises passed at the end of June this year.

"Your algebra is certainly right," he said.

He said that at the time of the strategic review, NBN Co had not yet sorted out its construction production line, and that the target set then was based on historical data of NBN Co's performance to date.

"At the time [it] looked consistent with what we might be able to deliver if we straightened out the whole production line," he said.

But Switkowski said that 357,000 premises passed is "still not an acceptable number; it is too low".

"It's not going faster than we were tracking indeed before the strategic review, and before the change of government," he said.

He said that the improvement in the run rate should not be an indication that the rollout has become easier for the company.

Switkowski also contradicted previous statements from NBN Co over the inclusion of premises on the TransACT fibre network, which have begun to be integrated into the NBN. The company previously indicated that these premises would be included in the 357,000 premises passed figure, but Switkowski said that the 7,800 premises due to be added before the end of June would be on top of that figure, and would be highlighted by the company.

"We will flag any additional customers that have been included, because they have been acquired in that way. Just to be transparent," he said.

Rain not a factor in broadband quality report

Earlier in the morning, the Department of Communications also faced a grilling from Conroy over its broadband quality tracker website MyBroadband. The report gathered data from approximately 20,000 data points across Australia to determine the median broadband speeds in those areas. The average speed determined did not take into account factors such as weather, which can greatly affect the speed of a service on the copper network, department assistant secretary for the broadband quality project Jo Grainger confirmed.

"Rain was not an element that we considered as part of our analysis," she said.

Department secretary Drew Clarke said that the report was explicit in stating that factors such as weather were not taken into account as part of the report.

"The median DSL speeds are based on some empirical data, so real world data of experiences of real broadband ADSL," Grainger added.

"We don't have information about when that was tested; by my understanding is that it was raw data that a carrier has provided, so it is likely that those tests were done at day, at night, at various locations across Australia."

Conroy said that the tests came as some parts of Australia were being declared drought affected, and, as such, the copper network would have been unaffected by rain at the time of testing.

The government is working to release the raw data on data.gov.au.

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