NBN Co responds to fibre delays analysis

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NBN Co responds to fibre delays analysis
NBN Co's Peter Ferris: Takes issue with iTnews' analysis.

NBN Co's statement, and our response.

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Last night (Wednesday evening) NBN Co sent iTnews a detailed statement claiming that our analysis of its rollout progress was "untrue" and "not supported by the facts."

We were grateful to receive this feedback. Our concerns — and intentions to publish yesterday's story — were relayed to NBN Co on Thursday February 28, and we gave them 3.5 working days (5.5 full days) to give us a response.

The original story will run unmodified, the reasons for which are listed on Page Two of this response. 

We would like to reiterate the irrefutable facts revealed by an analysis of NBN Co's own data:

  • Between January and February, 33 fibre serving areas were downsized.
  • As a result, 69,500 connections were displaced from those FSAs.
  • NBN Co states those connections will reappear in an adjacent FSA - the timing for which has not been announced. In any case, the timing for when those connections will be declared ready for service can no longer be guaranteed, unless NBN Co reveal under which FSA/FSAM they now fall. They are therefore delayed.
  • Construction in 28 percent of new housing estates and 19 percent of built-up areas is running behind schedule.



Peter Ferris, NBN Co's Executive General Manager Planning and Design:

IT News has claimed that NBN Co is deliberately manipulating its figures in order to make the rollout appear larger than it is.

The assertion is entirely untrue.

A correct interpretation of the data published on NBN Co's website confirms the following facts:

· No previously announced construction modules have been removed from the construction program.

· No areas are "losing previously-promised fibre connections".

Furthermore, ITNew's claim that "towns and cities have disappeared" from the rollout is not supported by the facts. It looks to be based on an erroneous assumption that FSA boundaries are fixed over time.

IT News gives the specific example of the Townsville suburb of Gulliver as being "one of the biggest losers from the redistribution".

Yet our network planning records indicate Townville has not lost out at all.

NBN Co received details that the size of the telephone exchange at Gulliver wasn't large enough to serve 12 FSAMS. So we had to transfer a number of premises from the Gulliver FSA to the Townsville FSA bringing its total FSAM count to 12 and reducing Gulliver to 8 FSAMs.

To reiterate:

In the original planning, Townville had 8 FSAMs and Gulliver had 12 containing approximately 50,000 premises.

In the current plan, Townsville has 12 FSAMs and Gulliver has 8 – still containing 50,000 premises.

This is merely one of many such errors of fact in the report.

In fact between the January and February Ready for Service releases there was also an update to our One Year Construction Rollout Plan. This plan included the movements of a number of FSAMS from one FSA to another as we applied the network design rules. These rules take into account factors like the maximum length a fibre cable can run, or the availability of existing infrastructure, and they are applied when NBN Co moves from a "desktop (PC based) design" to a "physical design" – based on on-the-ground site inspection.

The effect of the changes were published in the February Ready for Service data and resulted in changes to the number of FSAMs in some FSAs, which affected the premises count in some areas.

Further, there have also been some fluctuations in the numbers of premises in different construction modules reflecting the fact that more detailed information about premises counts is uncovered as we move from desktop design to detailed physical design following area-by-area walk outs.

However, these changes in premises in particular FSAMs do not alter the construction target. NBN Co is still working to the target of passing 286,000 premises by the end of June this year – and the spreadsheets referred in the article actually indicate this.

NBN Co's construction progress is monitored and managed on a daily basis and the company issues a monthly "Ready for Service" spreadsheet report to service providers with forecast dates of connection. Dates for FSAMs move backwards and forwards in this report depending on real construction progress, which can be affected by availability of connecting infrastructure, severe weather events such as floods or bushfires, or the readiness of underground conduits.

However, the forecast date for FSAMs to be ready for service can – and do – get pulled forward after having previously moved backward.

What the figures show is how open and transparent NBN Co is about the rollout, even down to the expected ready for service date for individual FSAM or some even smaller Fibre Distribution Areas.

On the question of New Developments – the following comments can be attributed to:

Kat Stapleton, Head of Business Operations:

NBN Co has previously said that the Greenfield build is one of the most challenging aspects of the rollout, as it is based on demand from developers for works that are spread right across Australia. Connecting new developments is a particularly challenge in areas where NBN Co hasn't got existing network to connect premises to, and the rollout relies on a number of critical factors such as access to pit and pipe infrastructure in which to install.

We are extremely focussed on the need to provide services in areas where people have already moved in, and we are applying additional resources and effort to provide these services as soon as we can."

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