NBN Co has seen its weekly activation numbers surge above 42,000 premises in consecutive weeks, coinciding with more stringent lockdowns in many states and territories that have many people stuck at home.
CEO Stephen Rue highlighted the “large increase in activation orders” in a speech to the virtual CommsDay Summit on Tuesday morning.
“Recently we have seen a large increase in activation orders with more than 40,000 come in each week, as more Australians shift their work and educational needs to their home broadband service,” Rue said.
“Each new connection we make means there are more Australians and Australian businesses successfully working from home, remaining productive and providing valuable employment opportunities for the nation.
“Indeed, it is fair to say that people at this time are increasingly putting their faith in [the] NBN.”
NBN Co’s last weekly update is for March 26, where it recorded 44,225 activations over the week prior.
In that week ended March 19, it had 42,516 order activations.
For comparative purposes, it previously hit weekly activation numbers of 36,000 on a few occasions in September and October last year, but has mostly averaged between 32,000 and 34,000 a week in the past six months.
Rue said the surge in activations are “not just [for] basic services”.
“We have seen a significant increase in high speed orders,” he said.
“Plans on 50Mbps or faster continue to make up the vast bulk of orders, but recently we have seen an increase in 100Mbps plans which are currently accounting for more than 10 percent of all orders.”
Rue said NBN Co had secured special permission to keep working through the lockdown period.
“To ensure we can continue connecting customers, we were recently classified as national critical infrastructure,” he said.
“This means that the continued connection, operation and maintenance of the NBN is essential for Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have also obtained the necessary entitlements to allow essential travel to those who need to continue work in the field or across state and territory borders.
“So while many parts of the economy have been forced to slow down, we are working our hardest to keep going as fast as we can when it comes to the rollout.”
Just as retail service providers have rallied behind NBN Co in recent weeks around the pandemic response, Rue reciprocated today, saying he was “proud to work in an industry that has so readily, and quickly, put the nation’s needs above its own.”
“We’ve seen workforce changes put on hold, investments brought forward, and ... amazing responses from many of our retail partners who have made immediate changes to support their customers through extra broadband capacity and pricing relief measures,” Rue said.
“Now, more than ever, it is absolutely critical we work together - not as competitors - but as an industry to help the nation stay connected.
“I have never seen the industry work with so much collaboration.”
Rue also had some words for the “corners of the media and academia who say we won’t be up to the task, that NBN Co as it is today cannot handle the load that has been unleashed upon us.”
“My message to them is that this is not the time to talk down the NBN,” he said.
“It’s not the time for point scoring or to gnash over decisions of the past.
“Because every time you talk down NBN, every time you say the NBN can’t handle this, you are talking down Australia, and you are talking down the social and economic opportunities that access to fast broadband can bring.
“Now is the time to focus on how NBN can help deliver a better Australia.”