blog I’ve been quite optimistic about the speed at which NBN Co is rolling out its brownfields fibre infrastructure, but that optimism has been challenged today by what appears to be the inadvertent release of new statistics regarding the company’s rollout progress. Communications Day reported this morning, and ZDNet also reported, that stats retail ISP DeVoteD had published on its site NBN fibre rollout stats as at March 12 (since taken down). And the news isn’t good. CommsDay tells us (click here for the full article):
“DeVoteD group, a small RSP based in Victoria, provides comprehensive NBN rollout information via its website. This includes fibre statistics broken down by state, suburb and service class. As of this morning, the site showed 70,783 premises passed with fibre: 47,511 in brownfields, and 23,272 in greenfields estates.”
To understand why these statistics — which have been verified by NBN Co — are significant, we need to look at NBN Co’s month by month rollout progress as detailed in the set of graphs in this article about the delays with NBN Co contractor Syntheo. In short, in March NBN Co was expected to see a significant jump in the number of brownfields fibre premises it had passed — from 50,000 at the end of February to 75,000 at the end of March. The DeVoteD stats show that, almost halfway through March, NBN Co has not made significant progress on those stats.
The stats also give credence to claims by Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Federal Parliament last week that NBN Co was on the verge of announcing a downgrade in its network rollout targets. At the time, Turnbull said:
“I have talked about the cost here, but the speed of the rollout is a matter that we have also expressed great concern about. In 2010 the NBN Co’s business plan said that they will have passed 1.3 million premises by 30 June 2013. In August last year they reduced that down to a figure somewhat in excess of 300,000. Now, it is 286,000, and we understand they will shortly be announcing that they have not been able to meet that target either.”
Now I have to emphasise about these stats that I didn’t want to believe them. I went through and looked at what CommsDay and ZDNet had reported with a skeptical eye. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that an Australian media outlet had fudged NBN numbers. However, the stats as reported, which NBN Co has verified, do show the company making poor progress towards its monthly targets.
Of course, we’re only talking about NBN Co being perhaps 12,000 or so fibre connections off at the moment for that period of March; it’s entirely possible that by the end of March it will be up to its 75,000 target for that month and that all will be happy again. In addition, NBN Co still has its big first half of 2013 ramp-up periods before it; it’s entirely possible it’s still broadly on track for its 286,000 projected target as at mid-2013. So let’s not jump down the rabbit hole too far just yet.
However, it would be remiss of me not to highlight these stats and remind NBN Co that this is the year it really has to deliver. These kinds of warning signs are not great news.
Image credit: NBN Co