NBN Co disables instant online quotes for user-pays fibre upgrades

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NBN Co disables instant online quotes for user-pays fibre upgrades

A fortnight after soft launching the tool.

NBN Co has pulled its instant online quote generator that could be used to price an upgrade to fibre after a fortnight, saying the experience around the tool needed to be further “optimised”.

“Due to the high volume of interest for more complex applications, the online quote tool is temporarily unavailable at this time,” a short message on the quote page reads.

“We’ll continue to explore ways to further optimise the customer experience of the tool.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause.”

The calculator was pulled offline at lunchtime on Sunday.

An NBN Co spokesperson told iTnews that interest in the tool had "exceeded expectations".

"We’ve stopped taking new applications so that we can best manage customer experience for those already in the system," the spokesperson said.

"We hope to clear the backlog and have the tool back online soon."

It is understood the backlog includes complex applications that require manual review and validation of the quote supplied.

That would appear to suggest the issue is less on the technical aspects of the tool, and more around available staffing to perform background work not automated by the quote calculator.

The quote calculator was soft-launched at the end of November, having earlier been promised by NBN Co as part of broader changes to its user-pays upgrade scheme, Technology Choice.

The instant quote numbers quickly became a competition of sorts among NBN customers to see who could get the highest quote, with the numbers topping out around $50,000.

iTnews has been attempting to understand how the tool functions, and the dataset it has been trained on, since the soft launch.

It is understood the tool essentially re-skins an existing dynamic cost modelling system that NBN Co already used internally for on-demand deployments and upgrade programs.

The quotes are believed to take into account factors such as the distance of a premises from relevant NBN network equipment, the complexity of required works, any required network capacity augmentation and an estimate of on-premises works.

It’s still unclear how the tool is able to perform some of these calculations on-the-fly, and iTnews was unable to learn this from NBN Co or industry sources.

The tool is understood to draw on datasets including historical and forecast cost data for construction in similar areas and for similar types of premises, as well as geographic data.

It appears the tool is able to draw upon machine learning or similar technology to use past quotes and the parameters of those calculations to make future quotes, and to price in changes to the NBN, which could lower quoted upgrade costs.

It is understood that this is why the tool offered quotes that were only valid for 24 hours, which suggests that the underlying data was being updated on a daily basis.

An NBN Co spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the tool’s architecture.

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