news The National Broadband Network Company overnight released hard statistics showing the progress of the rollout and uptake of its network infrastructure during the three months to the end of 2012, showing that the company is still making only slow progress in its construction effort and uptake of its services.
In a statement released late yesterday, the company said that as at 31 December last year, the company’s fibre network passed a total 72,400 premises, made up of some 46,100 premises in so-called ‘brownfield’ areas (areas where it is replacing existing network infrastructure) and 26,300 premises in ‘greenfield’ areas such as new housing estates where it is the first network infrastructure to be laid down.
The company’s fixed wireless network as at the end of December covered some 17,300 premises, and its satellite network covered some 250,000 premises. NBN Co also released the number of end user customers who had connected to its network. As at the end of December the company had some 10,000 fibre customers, 1,000 fixed wireless customers and some 23,100 satellite customers.
When compared to the figures NBN Co released in October for the three-month period to the end of September, NBN Co’s updated statistics show that the company is still making slow progress on its network rollout, despite the fact that it has stated that it has entered its rapid rollout phase of its network construction.
For example, NBN Co’s statistics show the company only completed its network rollout to an additional 20,386 fibre premises in the three month period to the end of December. It added only an additional 4,042 new customers who are now using its fibre network in the three month period. Most of NBN Co’s overall gains came from its satellite service, which it did not construct itself. For its satellite services NBN Co leases capacity on existing satellites from existing providers.
NBN Co also has a long way to go in terms of its rollout to meet its targets for the end of June this year. The company aims to have its fibre network covering some 341,000 premises by that period, with its satellite and wireless networks covering an additional 320,000 premises in total. The company aims to have some 54,000 active fibre customers at that point, and some 37,700 satellite and wireless customers.
In the company’s statement released yesterday, NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said: “The results reflect progress in the early stages of the rollout, and are what we would expect given the time and work necessary to put in place the contracts and agreements needed to get to this point of execution.”
“As can be seen by our targets, this rollout is not a linear progression, but a rapid ramp-up. We are targeting to pass more premises in the final quarter of the financial year than we will have passed in the entire project up to the beginning of that quarter. Additional construction resources will be added over the coming months to help achieve these targets. We will continue to work very closely with our construction partners – Syntheo (WA, NT, SA); Transfield (Vic); Silcar (NSW, QLD, ACT); and Visionstream (Tas) – to deliver the June 2013 targets.”
NBN Co itself prefers to use the metric of ‘construction commenced or completed’ in measuring the progress of its rollout, as the company views this metric as providing a better overall picture of total construction activity across its operations. The company recently announced that it had met its target of having 758,000 premises where construction had commenced or completed by the end of the 2012 calendar year.
To be honest I am somewhat disappointed by these results. NBN Co might be in its rapid ramp-up phase, but the company’s results so far don’t really demonstrate that fact.
Let’s look at the six month period to the end of December 2012, for example; the period where NBN Co has repeatedly been emphasizing that it has a huge amount of construction work going on; the period that it is ramping up its construction efforts. In this period, NBN Co only finished constructing its network to an additional 17,100 brownfields premises. 17,100! That’s almost nothing. Not really even one suburb! That’s only 6,100 more brownfields premises than the company added in the entire year before that!
In the six month period to the end of last year, the company also added only an additional 3,200 brownfields active customers. Again, this was only a little more than it added in the whole year previous to June 2012 – in that year NBN Co added some 2,800 new live brownfields customers.
Things are better in the fixed wireless and satellite areas when it comes to the company’s network construction efforts. The number of premises covered by NBN Co’s satellite network jumped rapidly in the six month period to the end of December 2012 — going up from 165,000 to 250,000. Its wireless network jumped from 9,000 to 17,300 in the same period, and most impressive of all are the numbers of customers taking up the satellite service – jumping from 13,600 to 23,100 in the six month period. Fixed wireless customers are still minimal – NBN Co added only 1,000 customers in the six month period.
However, the fact is that NBN Co hasn’t itself actually deployed any satellite infrastructure yet to meet the demands of remote customers – those customers are gaining access, through NBN Co, to subsidised satellite services through the satellites of other companies. And Ericsson, not NBN Co itself, is building NBN Co’s wireless network. Ericsson has plenty of experience in this field; you may remember that the company build Telstra’s excellent Next G mobile network.
When it comes to the deployment and uptake of its fibre broadband network, NBN Co is still crawling at a snail’s pace. There might be plenty of ongoing construction activity across its network, but on its key measures – premises passed and active services – NBN Co is moving extremely slowly. The “ramp-up” which the company has continually talked about recently is really not yet showing in the company’s hard statistics.
10,400 active users on NBN Co’s fibre network since the company was founded in mid-2009? That’s a very slow deployment by anyone’s measure. It’s been three and a half years since NBN Co was formed, people. The company has about 1,700 staff and construction and equipment contracts coming out the wazoo. But it’s still not delivering on its key aim of building its goddamn nationwide fibre network and attracting customers to that network. It’s starting to look like the Coalition’s criticism of NBN Co has some validity. This is still a very good policy; but it’s being delivered very, very slowly. At this point, I am starting to begin to conclude that NBN Co has wasted much of the past three and a half years and needs a fire lit under its nether regions to get it moving.