Business Analysis

NBN Co coming clean on underperforming broadband services

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Australia's NBN has been in dire need of upgrading to meet demands in an ever-increasingly digital world (Image via Pexels - edited)

NBN Co is taking steps to improve Australia's broadband network to meet consumer demands, as revealed in its latest service plan. Paul Budde reports.

In a significant move to enhance its network performance and address underperforming connections, NBN Co has unveiled a comprehensive set of initiatives outlined in its first Annual Service Improvement Plan. The plan, mandated under the new Special Access Undertaking (SAU), signals a proactive approach to tackling connectivity issues and improving customer experiences.

The highlight of the plan is NBN Co's commitment to upgrading approximately 53,000 premises currently plagued by underperforming Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) connections. The company aims to replace these problematic connections with full fibre by the end of the fiscal year 2024. This initiative, part of the multi-billion-dollar Fibre Connect program, is set to significantly enhance internet speeds for affected users.

The revelation comes after a period of limited disclosure by NBN Co regarding the number of premises unable to achieve the minimum standard of 25Mbps peak download speeds. The last known figure in mid-2021 was 119,000 premises, but the latest update suggests that at least 53,000 premises continue to face underperformance issues.

To streamline the upgrade process, NBN Co plans to implement backend changes, automating the transition for customers with underperforming services. This shift in the service class for FTTN services within the Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) upgrade footprint aims to eliminate the need for users to order higher-speed tiers manually. The company is targeting the proactive identification and resolution of underperforming lines in the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.

The revelation of NBN Co's strategy confirms suspicions raised by Optus as reported in I.T. News that essential remediation work on underperforming lines was being delayed until complete replacements were possible. Optus claimed that this delay left some customers with open tickets for remediation work lingering for over 18 months.

In addition to addressing underperforming connections, NBN Co's Annual Service Improvement Plan includes eight key initiatives aimed at consistently enhancing customer outcomes. These initiatives cover various aspects, such as expanding FTTP to over 7.7 million homes and businesses, upgrading the fixed wireless network to deliver faster download speeds, and overbuilding 53,000 premises currently relying on copper lines by the end of fiscal year 2024.

NBN Co's chief customer officer, Anna Perrin, emphasised the commitment to meet the nation's growing demand for data. Perrin highlighted the company's plan to upgrade access networks for underperforming FTTN connections, starting with 22,000 immediately eligible premises. Retail service providers have been provided with detailed lists of these eligible premises, urging them to inform customers of their eligibility for a full fibre upgrade.

The plan also outlines NBN Co's broader network initiatives, including transitioning Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) to Distributed Access Architecture (DAA), deploying XGS-PON for the FTTP network and evolving transport and aggregation networks to support multi-gigabit capability. Additionally, NBN Co is set to modernize its HFC plant and deploy a next-generation FTTP platform in targeted areas.

Overall, NBN Co's Annual Service Improvement Plan signals a significant step towards addressing connectivity challenges, enhancing customer experiences and expanding fibre coverage to meet the evolving demands of the Australian population. As the company targets the ambitious upgrade of 3.7 million premises by the end of fiscal year 2024, it is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Australia's digital landscape.

Paul Budde is an IA columnist and managing director of independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation, Paul Budde Consulting. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

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