nbn defends itself against Labor's HFC connection "limbo" claims

nbn defends itself against Labor's HFC connection "limbo" claims

Labor claims one in six NBN HFC footprint premises are in "limbo"

The company behind the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN), nbn, is under fire from the Australian Labor Party over Australian households that are still unable to order a NBN service.

nbn Co responded to a recent senate estimates question, which requested a breakdown of current service class zero (SC0) premises by technology type.

In its response, it identified 132,691 premises across hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC), 106,352 premises across fibre-to-the-node (FttN) and fibre-to-the-basement (FttB), and 7,899 premises across fibre-to-the-premises (as of June).

This HFC footprint made up 53 per cent of the total SC0 pool in June 2017, but when Labor compared the figure to nbn’s 2018 Corporate Plan, which reported 800,000 HFC premises ready for service as of 30 June 2017, it suggested that one in six HFC households cannot order an NBN service.

Labor's allegations follows nbn’s dependence on recently-signed delivery partners to ramp up the rate of it HFC connections in the second half of last year.

Shadow minister for communications, Michelle Rowland, also stressed that nbn’s response to the query was 45 days overdue, giving the company a chance to review and tweak its approach in the interim.

On 4 September, nbn stated that it “will only release new HFC footprint to market where there is a lead-in to the premises already in place." 

“Specialised construction crews will be deployed to complete the additional work required to connect these premises to the NBN broadband access network – much of this work will involve building these new lead-ins for premises where none currently exists,” it stated previously.

As a result, Rowland alleged that the delay has not occurred by chance.

“It’s no coincidence the Minister delayed a straightforward response on this breakdown until after 4 September 2017, the date when the chief NBN engineer announced the ongoing problems with HFC have forced the company to change its approach."

A spokesperson for nbn said the company has “worked hard” to reduce the percentage of premises that are classified as SC0, bringing it down from 34 per cent of total premises passed in June 2013 to just 4.5 per cent of total premises passed now.

“The number of SC0 premises is a function of the volume of a particular technology that is being rolled out," the spokesperson said. “For example in June 2013, FttP was the dominant technology being rolled out and 34 per cent of that footprint was considered SC0 or unserviceable. 

"Now, we’re predominantly rolling out more HFC and FttN/B, hence they form a larger portion of the SC0,” the spokesperson said.

In late August, nbn revealed a “new milestone” stating that an average of close to 100,000 premises were made serviceable per week in the last three months.

It added that deployments of the FttN and HFC infrastructure that comprises a large part of its multi-technology mix approach to the network's rollout were driving the increased rollout pace, with the two technologies serving more than half of the six million premises able to connect to retail services on the NBN.

nbn has reiterated, on several occasions, that the network is scheduled to be three quarters built by mid-2018 and complete by 2020.

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