NBN Co's take-up by the numbers

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NBN Co's take-up by the numbers
Customers are making NBN connections.

Analysis: If they build it, will we come?

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NBN Co is touting take-up rates bordering on 60 percent in some fibre rollout areas, figures the company claims are the envy of the telecoms world.

The company last week released its most detailed dataset yet on take-up rates, choosing 22 completed fibre serving area modules (FSAMs), and showing what percentage of premises in each have taken a retail service. (pdf)

Analysis of the statistics by iTnews shows there's plenty of room to capitalise on proven demand for fast broadband services in these rollout areas in the run up to the federal election on September 14.

The take-up rates surpass anything NBN Co has previously revealed in percentage terms.

NBN Co's last update on take-up rates was less than a fortnight ago, when it announced (pdf) over half of residents in the mainland first-release sites of Kiama and Willunga had taken up a retail service on the network.

Further growth in Kiama and Willunga has them now pushing 60 percent take-up, according to NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley.

"If we add the orders that are in pending which we're about to activate, the take-up rates would be at 60 percent," he told the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network.

"That is really quite an astonishing take-up rate for a new network."

Quigley is keen to point out that explosive take-up is also occurring in some of the FSAMs that NBN Co is now bringing online.

"The take-up rates for some of those is even faster than Kiama and Willunga," Quigley said.

He said take-up rates at an FSAM in the northern Canberra suburb of Harrison are rising "almost vertically" when plotted graphically.

"If we just include the 'pendings' that we have on order that we've just got activate, we'll be up at a 38 percent take-up rate after three months," Quigley said.

"That really is unprecedented.

"These are the kind of take-up rates that — when we talk to operators around the world — they find a little hard to believe, because they are so high."

It is unclear exactly how far the take-up rates outlined by NBN Co can be extrapolated across the entire rollout so far.

NBN Co previously said its take-up averages 15 percent nationwide, and there's no more recent advance on that figure.

In the following analysis, iTnews examines each rollout area NBN Co identified as a high-performer in terms of take-up, and scopes the potential of each to bolster retail connection numbers prior to the September election in approximately 20 weeks' time.

iTnews has confirmed with an NBN Co spokesperson that all FSAMs in NBN Co's graph are complete (no construction work remains).

Tasmanian trial sites

The first three towns to connect to the NBN — Midway Point, Scottsdale and Smithton — boast take-up rates spanning 15.7 percent to 33.5 percent, but they've also been available for retail services the longest (about 146 weeks).

After a vast period of slow or negligible growth, NBN adoption in all three sites have been on the increase over the past half-year.

"They've started to take a kick up again," Quigley confirmed to the parliamentary committee, but he did not detail why.

One possible explanation is short-term marketing bonuses paid to ISPs for every customer they bring onto the NBN.

Midway Point

NBN Co lists take-up rates for two FSAMs in the 7SOR-codenamed fibre serving area. 

Connections at Midway Point have been available far longer than those at Sorell, though the latter's take-up shows the potential the area has to bolster NBN Co's active connection numbers.

FSAM Code Location Total Premises Take-Up Rate  Retail Connections
7SOR-02 Midway Point  1300  33.5%  436
7SOR-01 Sorell  1300  34.5%  449

Ultimately, however, there are no more FSAMs. NBN Co's latest Ready for Service spreadsheet has two wireless towers in the area to go into service next month, accounting for a combined additional 785 premises.

It's no stretch to consider a percentage of these will have active retail services come election time, but it remains to be seen if wireless will enjoy the same take-up rates as fibre areas.

Scottsdale and Smithton 

NBN Co shows its Scottsdale FSAM (codenamed 7SCL-01) has had a take-up rate of 17.6 percent. This fibre serving area has 1200 premises, which extrapolates as 211 active connections.

Take-up on the Smithton FSAM (7SMO-01) — which covers 1700 premises — is 15.7 percent, meaning the number of active connections is around 267.

As with Midway, there are no more FSAMs planned. 

Mainland first release sites

The high-growth mainland first release sites provide plenty of promise for NBN Co to beef up its active connections, as long as current construction efforts remain on schedule.

Kiama/Minnamurra Downs

The area with the highest take-up rates anywhere in the network has plenty of premises ready to come online in time for the election.

FSAM Code Location Total Premises Take-Up Rate  Retail Connections
2KIA-01 Kiama, Minnamurra Downs  2400  57.7%  1385

A further two FSAMs are listed in the April Ready For Service spreadsheet. The timing of these areas should mean Kiama provides some sort of boost in retail user numbers on the NBN prior to the election.

Both FSAMs are also part of NBN Co's 'early access program', meaning retail services can already be run on the portions where construction is complete. 

FSAM Location Total Premises Ready For Service 
2KIA-02 Jamberoo, Kiama, Bombo  2500  27 July 2013
2KIA-03 Kiama Heights, Kiama  2200  25 June 2013


NBN Co's other star performer, Willunga in South Australia, is also broaching 60 percent take-up rates.

FSAM Code Location Total Premises Take-Up Rate  Retail Connections
5ALD-01 Willunga, South Willunga  1100  56.9%  626

Only one additional FSAM might be completely ready to support retail services by election time.

NBN Co is trying to have the -02 and -03 FSAMs (see table below) included in a second phase of the 'early access program', though the company needs the competition watchdog's go-ahead for this to occur.

If it succeeds, portions of the two could be opened to retail services before the election; if it fails to win over the regulator, only -03 might be ready in time for the election.

FSAM Location Total Premises Ready For Service 
5ALD-02 Aldinga Beach, Port Willunga, Aldinga  2300  November 2013
5ALD-03 Aldinga Beach  2200  September 2013
5ALD-04 Aldinga Beach  1500  February 2014
5ALD-05 Sellicks Beach  1700  4Q 2014


NBN Co is reporting a take-up rate of 39.5 percent in the first FSAM in suburban Townsville.

FSAM Code Location Total Premises Take-Up Rate  Retail Connections
4GUL-01 Mundingburra, Aitkenvale  2800  39.5%  1106

There is also plenty of scope for the active connections number in Townsville to rise pre-election, with a number of new areas on track to be declared ready to support retail services.

The -02, -03 and -04 areas (see table below) are part of the 'early access program', meaning completed portions can be opened to retail services early.

NBN Co is pushing to have the -05 FSAM made part of phase two of the same program, but this won't happen without regulatory approval (and therefore, isn't a given).

FSAM Location Total Premises Ready For Service 
4GUL-02 Gulliver, Mundingburra, Mysterton, Pimlico, Aitkenvale  3000  August 2013
4GUL-03 Mysterton, Pimlico, Currajong  2900  September 2013
4GUL-04 Vincent, Heatley  2400  September 2013
4GUL-05 Cranbrook  2300  August 2013
4GUL-06 Kirwan, Heatley  2400  November 2013
4GUL-07 Kirwan, Thuringowa Central, Cranbrook  2600  2Q 2015


NBN Co provides take-up statistics for five out of six FSAMs in the Armidale area, though some are in an aggregated format and it is unclear what their individual take-up rates are.

FSAM Code Location Total Premises Take-Up Rate  Retail Connections
2ARM-01, 02,03 Armidale 2300, 2000, 500  28.2%  1354
2ARM-04 Armidale  2500  27.4%  685
2ARM-05 Armidale  2700  12.4%  335

Only sections of one FSAM — 2ARM-06 — remain outstanding for construction. The sections, amounting to ten fibre distribution areas (FDAs) of 183 premises, are due to come online sometime between April and June.

The whole FSAM is to be declared Ready For Service by June 29, though this is a formality more than anything as it is part of the 'early access program'.


The last of the five mainland first release sites has the lowest take-up rate of the five, but also shows plenty of promise to have a swathe of new lines ready to support retail services come election time.

FSAM Code Location Total Premises Take-Up Rate  Retail Connections
3BRU-01 Brunswick  2900  26.6%  771

There are seven more Brunswick FSAMs included in the latest Ready For Service plan, and four are due to be completely ready for retail internet services by September.

NBN Co is hoping that -03, -04, -05 and -06 will be approved for phase two of its 'early acess program', making retail connections possible in a shorter time frame.

FSAM Location Total Premises Ready For Service 
3BRU-02 Parkville, Brunswick  2500  6 July 2013
3BRU-03 East Brunswick, Brunswick  2600  15 June 2013
3BRU-04 Brunswick East  2700  August 2013
3BRU-05 Princes Hill, Carlton North  2700  August 2013
3BRU-06 Parkville, Brunswick West  2000  October 2013
3BRU-07 Brunswick West  2200  February 2014
3BRU-07 Brunswick  2300  February 2014

Continue to page two for iTnews' analysis of take-up among the 'new breed' of fibre area.

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