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From 358 Area Switch applications, NBN has upgraded two MDUs so far

The program to allow councils or apartment blocks to upgrade NBN connection technology is shooting less than 1 percent.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

From more than 350 applications since July 2012 for its area switch program, NBN has just two sites up and running, and one site being built.

The numbers were revealed by NBN [PDF] in response to Questions on Notice from the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, looking into the rollout in rural and regional areas.

Area switch allows councils and corporate bodies to upgrade towns or multi-dwelling units (MDUs) to a superior technology offered by NBN -- such as from satellite to fixed-wireless or FttX; from fixed-wireless to FttX; or from fibre to the node or basement (FttN/B) to fibre to the premises (FttP) -- but an application fee must be paid before NBN will look into a request.

NBN detailed that it has received 358 area switch applications since July 2012, supplied 90 cost estimates, is building one site, and has two sites up and running.

Those two sites are MDUs consisting of 300 and 350 premises, respectively.

NBN also said it has 15 applications "in flight", which means cost estimates have been supplied without a decision made to proceed or walk away by the applicant.

The 358 applications is a significant jump on the 28 received by April 2016, at which time no applicant had purchased an area switch.

At April 2016, NBN said it had received revenue of AU$31,300 without GST from application fees, and AU$22,640 without GST from design and quote fees.

In August last year, NBN revealed that one customer in Queensland had paid more than AU$200,000 to have their fixed-wireless connection replaced with full fibre.

"A single end user applying for a technology choice upgrade will typically pay a significant amount, particularly if theirs is the first request in the area," NBN said at the time.

"In order to provision an FttP service for one end user, significant, complex work is often required at the exchange in order to transmit an FttP service. As a result, the most effective way to lower the price for a tech choice switch would be to aggregate demand amongst multiple end users in the same area."

The highest figure provided in a quote by August for an individual to switch from FttN to FttP was AU$149,937 for a premises in Katoomba, New South Wales -- with the quote declined by the applicant.

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