NBN warns of 'disruption' as it takes rollout to cities in 2017

NBN will begin rolling out its network to cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, Fremantle, and the Gold Coast, with the company warning of disruptions as it needs to access pits and existing infrastructure.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The company rolling out Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) has warned of possible civil works disruptions after announcing that it will begin extending fibre and cable broadband into major cities this year.

Much of the disruption will occur as NBN needs to gain access to pits and existing infrastructure within high-density cities.

"As the NBN network rolls out into cities, we will be met with new problems to solve," NBN CEO Bill Morrow said.

"We understand there will be some disruption for residents and business owners as the 14,000 people working across NBN and our delivery partners complete the task as soon as possible.

"The intensified deployment will present challenges, but the NBN team, along with our partners and retailers, is focused on a positive experience for customers and end users as we accelerate the build and connection rates to new records."

Some of the cities in which NBN will begin construction or switch on its network are Sydney, Campbelltown, the Hills District, Warringah, and Randwick, New South Wales; Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast, Queensland; Hobart and Devonport, Tasmania; Fremantle and Bassendean, Western Australia; Salisbury and Onkaparinga, South Australia; and Moonee Valley City, Boroondara City, Casey City, Glen Eira City, and Knox City, Victoria.

In terms of further disruption, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) published research in December revealing that the process of becoming connected to the NBN is adversely affecting 43 percent of businesses.

Just 22 percent of businesses said the NBN connection process was smooth, while the most common complaint from businesses was "ongoing service issues", according to the ACMA.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) also revealed in November that consumer complaints about the NBN doubled during 2015-16, up to 13,406 complaints.

"We saw nearly a 100 percent increase in the number of NBN-related complaints this year, but the rate of growth is lower than the growth of active services," Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

"Delays in connections to the network, faults including unusable services, and dropout of services were regularly reported, which is of concern."

The TIO said the increase in complaints was "expected" due to the accelerating NBN rollout.

The most complaints about NBN services were in relation to connections, including connection delays and missed appointments; and faults, including slow data speeds, dropouts, and unusable services.

NBN also announced on Wednesday that the network is due to "almost" reach its halfway point by June 30, with 5.4 million premises expected to be able to connect by then.

"Midway through the year, half the NBN network will be completed. This will be a significant turning point, as we aim to finish the build by 2020 and become the first fully connected continent in the world," Morrow said.

NBN's 2017 Corporate Plan revealed that a base case of 2 million or 17 percent of premises will be covered by fibre to the premises (FttP); 6.1 million or 51 percent by fibre to the node (FttN), fibre to the basement (FttB), or fibre to the distribution point (FttDP); 2.8 million or 24 percent by hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC); and 1 million or 8 percent by fixed-wireless or satellite.

NBN in December produced a searchable rollout map that allows Australians to find out when they can connect to the NBN, but only provides information on the network technology being used if they are in the satellite or fixed-wireless footprint.

The updated Check Your Address page also does not provide information on when those living within an HFC area will be able to connect to the NBN. It is expected that these HFC areas will be added at some point during 2017.

Speaking at Senate Estimates in October, Morrow said the new rollout map provides a higher level of transparency than its previously used three-year construction plan.

"The three-year plan that you referred to is when construction will commence, not necessarily when they'll be able to order a service," Morrow said at the time.

"We've heard from this committee that you're looking for greater transparency, we know your constituents are interested in this, and so ... we'll have that available."

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