NBN Co said it will initiate a “small volume launch” of on-demand upgrades to full fibre connections by the end of the year, encompassing “up to” 10,000 premises.
The upgrades are eventually to be offered in half of the company’s fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint, under a near $3 billion program unveiled last year.
NBN Co announced in May that 1.1 million premises had so far been identified as potentially eligible for a free upgrade.
The company has also recently appointed construction partners to perform the upgrade works, which involve overbuilding the existing FTTN area with fibre, and then making last-mile fibre connections to premises “on-demand”, assuming those premises meet certain criteria.
Exactly what the eligibility criteria will be is still unclear, though it is likely to involve placing an order for a certain tier of service, and possibly also a specific term of commitment.
The company recently told the senate that “NBN Co is currently consulting with retail service providers on 100/20 Mbps being the minimum service order that would trigger the provision of a fibre lead-in to a premises”.
“We expect to announce the final position shortly,” it said.
There will be even more interest in that criteria now that NBN Co has also put some timelines and numbers around when the first on-demand offers are likely to be made.
“To date, the company has commenced the detailed design process for the local fibre network that will pass approximately 467,000 premises, and it has commenced the roll out of new fibre to pass the first 100,000 premises,” NBN Co said in financial statements.
“By calendar year end, the company plans to initiate a small volume launch of FTTN to FTTP upgrades, making up to 10,000 premises eligible to access to NBN Home Fast [100Mbps] and other higher speed services on demand, before scaling the program throughout 2022 and 2023.”
Elsewhere in its financial statements, NBN Co said it had repaid $6.3 billion of its $19.5 billion Commonwealth loan as of June 30, more than it had previously anticipated.
It reported that statutory net profit after tax “improved by 27 per cent or $1.4 billion in FY21, reducing the statutory loss from $5.2 billion in FY20 to $3.8 billion in FY21”.
The company also claimed early victory on its ‘focus on fast’ campaign, though the actual impact won’t be known until later this year when it becomes clear how many users are actually willing to pay for the higher speeds, compared to simply receiving them as a free - albeit temporary - upgrade.