NBN Co has revealed there are still 126,000 fibre-to-the-node premises that can’t hit the mandated minimum peak speed of 25Mbps.
It is only the fourth time NBN Co has revealed the number - which it did following answers to questions raised by Labor senators in an ongoing inquiry into NBN Co’s business case.
Those questions elicited a figure of 139,963 premises that receive less than 25Mbps on the network "as at May 2020" - around 4.7 percent of all active FTTN premises at that time.
An NBN Co spokesperson said the company has since worked the number down from 139,963 to 126,079 premises.
"NBN Co has made positive progress in the last four months, improving the speed of broadband services on FTTN, in particular, so that an additional 14,000 of the premises identified in May 2020 can now receive at least 25Mbps," the spokesperson said.
When NBN Co last provided this number in April last year, 183,000 FTTN customers - 7.6 percent of all active FTTN users - couldn’t hit the minimum 25Mbps speed.
NBN Co has long described some of the challenges it encounters with this portion of the FTTN user base.
Some experience slow speeds due to the co-existence period, a typically 18-month window in which FTTN speeds are limited to stop those services interfering with older ADSL services on shared pieces of infrastructure.
For others, slow speeds could be related to long copper loops (or lengths) to the nearest node, or by in-home wiring issues.
NBN Co said that customers on long loops mostly had their issues addressed with an upgrade to fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) technology.
On those impacted by co-existence, NBN Co said it is making progress, though it also noted elsewhere that as of July 1, “co-existence has ended on 5750 nodes out of a total of 27,933 nodes in the FTTN footprint.”
Additionally, co-existence often involved multiple parties to migrate older ADSL services to the NBN, which slowed the process and kept FTTN users in the area on under-performing services.
“Addressing speed limitations caused by co-existence similarly requires involvement of other parties,” NBN Co said.
“These can arise in areas where there are non-standard services which require more time to migrate.
“These include non-premises (e.g. traffic lights), some special (business) services and multi-dwelling unit common areas.
“NBN Co is working with industry to enable migration of these services off the copper network in order to end co-existence.”
NBN Co said in a statement to iTnews that it forecasts the end of co-existence "will be fully realised in FY24, and we are working to bring forward the end of co-existence where possible."
For premises where the mandated minimum isn’t being met due to in-home issues, NBN Co said it needed to work with retail service providers and consumers themselves on a resolution.
“While NBN Co has a program to identify and assist industry to address internal cabling problems, resolving these issues necessarily requires the end-users involvement in facilitating completion of in-premises activities,” it said.
It’s not clear out of the 140,000 how many have problems due to co-existence versus in-home wiring, for example.
NBN Co did say that the “vast majority of FTTN lines are expected to achieve a peak speed of at least 25Mbps by December 2020.”
“Given the role of other parties in addressing remaining issues a small proportion of premises may take longer,” it said.
A small proportion of FTTN users whose connections could not be remediated have in the past been upgraded to full fibre connections.
Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said in a statement that “ongoing lack of transparency” around slow services “is incredibly frustrating for impacted consumers and businesses”.
“Here we are in 2020 and many Australians on copper NBN infrastructure are still not receiving the most basic broadband capability that was promised,” she said.
Rowland called on the government to “set out a clear timetable for delivering what Australians have been promised”.
She also sought assurances that any FTTN premises that can’t achieve 25Mbps after remediation options are exhausted wouldn’t be put onto the NBN satellite service.
Updated 2.40pm: The piece has been updated to reflect current numbers, representing a reduction in premises unable to achieve 25Mbps by 14,000.
NBN Co said it "recognised that we have more work to do to deliver download speeds of at least 25Mbps to the remaining 126,079 ... that are receiving less than 25Mbps, and we are undertaking this work as a priority."