NBN says FTTN rollout still on track

Leaked document reveals power-related delays for National Broadband Network FTTN rollout

NBN has refused to be drawn on an internal document that reveals its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) rollout has suffered significant setbacks.

The Sydney Morning Herald was the first to reveal details of the document over the weekend.

Computerworld Australia has sighted the document, which is an internal presentation titled “Scale the Deployment Program – FTTx Design and Construction” and dated 19 February.

The document says NBN has achieved only 29,000 FTTN “construction completions” compared to the corporate budget of more than 94,000.

“Despite Design Commenced remaining above budget, all other significant milestones of FTTN continue to remain behind budget,” the document says.

The “Design Complete” phase was budgeted to be at 1,402,909 premises but only 662,665 premises had reached that stage.

Delays related to power, including slow design approval by power companies, are a major factor. Power approvals for some 303,000 premises are outstanding, the document said.

An NBN spokesperson said that the company rejects any claim that it is at risk of not meeting its rollout targets.

“NBN has met or exceeded every key target for six quarters in a row,” the spokesperson said.

“The company is on track to meet or exceed its full year targets of 2.6 million homes Ready For Service, approximately 1 million homes using the network, and more than $300 million in revenue.

“The company’s management has proven repeatedly that it can effectively monitor risks and manage those risks.”

NBN formally launched its FTTN offering in September last year.

The technology, along with hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), is a key part of the ‘multi-technology mix’ (MTM) plan championed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Under the MTM plan, FTTN and HFC will be used to connect the majority of existing premises that sit within the National Broadband Network fixed line footprint.

FTTN is meant to connect around 38 per cent of Australian homes and businesses to the network. In its public figures, NBN includes its fibre-to-the-basement rollout — FTTB — as part of FTTN.

NBN has said it is aiming for 500,000 FTTN premises Ready for Service (RFS) — that is, able to contact a retail service provider and order an FTTN service — by mid-2016.

It is aiming for 3.7 million FTTN premises to be RFS by mid-2018.

By the end of December last year there were 123,574 premises able to order an FTTN service.

Given the discrepancy between that figure and figures in the leaked document, it would appear that the majority of those connections are FTTB (which is being rolled out to apartment blocks).

During the recent round of Senate Estimates hearings, NBN executives were quizzed on end user complaints about FTTN performance. Senators also requested a breakdown of FTTN and FTTB rollout figures, a query that NBN took on notice.

“Malcolm Turnbull’s second rate NBN was supposed to reach every home in three years – he has more than doubled this timeframe, and after today, Malcolm Turnbull won’t even meet his revised target of 2020,” a statement issued by shadow communications minister Jason Clare said.

FTTP, which was to be the sole fixed line technology under Labor’s plan, does not require mains power, the statement noted.

"The NBN is on track to meet its targets for the financial year, within the budget set out in the company's corporate plan. Any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong," said a statement issued by communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield.

"The company has met its targets for the past six quarters in a row. This is in stark contrast to management under Labor, when the company had barely managed to connect 50,000 users after four years.

"The Coalition Government has taken a business-like approach to managing the NBN project. After two terms of Government, Labor had upgraded broadband to just 1 in 50 premises in Australia."

“By the end of this year, the NBN will have upgraded 1 in 4 premises and by the end of 2018 it will have extended to 3 in 4 premises,” the statement said.

“We will not be drawn on alleged internal documents, we report quarterly and our results are audited,” NBN's spokesperson said.

“This is an incredibly complex project unlike any infrastructure build anywhere in the world.”

“As at 18 February 2016, nearly 1.8 million homes can now order a service and more than 800,000 homes are already connected and using the NBN network,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re now tracking over 10,000 new activations a week. By the end of this financial year we’re on track for nearly one in four homes to be able to order an NBN service and by June of 2018 this is set to grow to three in four.”

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Tags broadbandNetworkingnational broadband networkNational Broadband Network (NBN)fibre to the node (FTTN)

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