NBN Co said there would not be a time that “all” premises in brownfields areas would have access to minimum line speeds of 25/5Mbps before the end of 2022, owing to a variety of factors that could impact an end-to-end connection.
The response to Labor senators continued a long-running series of questions that sought to understand how many premises are not capable of minimum 25Mbps line speeds, particularly now that the network has been declared "built and fully operational".
The 2016 statement of expectations (SOE) given to NBN Co by the government stated that “the network will provide peak wholesale download data rates (and proportionate upload rates) of at least 25 megabits per second to all premises, and at least 50 megabits per second to 90 per cent of fixed line premises as soon as possible.”
The current SOE does not restate these speeds, though it notes that NBN Co - as the default statutory infrastructure provider or SIP in most parts of Australia - “must meet legal obligations, including in relation to minimum service speed and network performance requirements.”
SIPs, according to these obligations, “should enable [retail service providers] to provide broadband service speeds that achieve a peak of at least 25 Mbps for downloads [and] 5 Mbps for uploads.”
When the last set of numbers were released in July, NBN Co had shown progress in working down the portion of premises whose connections still could not achieve a peak line speed of 25/5Mbps, from 238,000 services at the end of last year to 119,000.
Traditionally, most underperforming premises are in the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint, which is now being partially overbuilt by NBN Co, and could be overbuilt to an even greater degree if Labor wins the next federal election.
Labor senators had sought to understand whether “all brownfield premises in Australia have access to minimum download speeds of 25Mbps - and upload speeds of 5Mbps - by the end of 2021” back in June, but did not receive a direct response.
The question was re-asked during recent senate estimates hearings, albeit with a timeframe of “the end of 2022” - and with a warning to NBN Co that “a response other than yes, will be taken to mean no.”
A response from NBN Co, published late yesterday [pdf], stated that “there can be a number of factors that could impact the minimum attainable line speeds to below 25Mbps download and 5Mbps upload, at any point in time for a very small proportion of customers due to a combination of factors such as damages, weather events, in-home wiring issues, wi-fi setup, and RSP issues.”
It went on to say that “the set of premises affected by these issues is different at any point in time due to the nature of the aforementioned factors, [and] measures to improve the minimum speed of brownfield premises, including end to co-existence and commencing a proactive assurance process with RSPs.”
Co-existence refers to the window of time provided for ADSL users to switch over to the FTTN. An end date for co-existence is beyond Q2 of 2023, according to the most recent integrated product roadmap published by NBN Co.
The assurance process appears set to launch in Q3 of 2022, and is described as “a review [of] the end-to-end assurance framework.” NBN Co did not comment on it when recently approached by iTnews.
No specific number was provided for premises unable to achieve 25/5Mbps.