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Aussies show us how it’s done in the broadband world

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Just to put the sluggishness of the UK into perspective, Australian operator nbn has exceeded targets to bring connectivity to surfers, avid BBQers and dingos everywhere.

In reporting its annual numbers, the number of number of premises ready for ‘fast’ broadband service almost doubled from 2.9 million to 5.7 million, exceeding the target for the year by 300,000. With the increase in end users, revenue more than doubled from $421 million to $1 billion, up on the $900 million which the team had targeted.

The network itself is somewhat similar to that of Openreach in the UK. It is an Australian national wholesale open-access data network project with both wired, and radio communication components being rolled out and operated by NBN Co Ltd.

“To almost double the footprint again on the back last year’s efforts is incredible progress and means many more Australians will have access to fast broadband sooner,” said nbn CEO Bill Morrow.

“The momentum has seen the team deliver a record 140,000 premises to the footprint in one week, putting us clearly at the centre of our peak construction period. Our delivery partners and nbn employees have worked tirelessly to reach this incredible pace.”

The number of premises connected to retail services on the nbn network grew by 122% during the period to 2.4 million premises. The marketing collateral is mainly focused around fibre-messaging (but isn’t everyone’s), though packages do start at 25 Mbps and go up to 100 Mbps. In this perspective, it is keeping pace with everyone else.

But as mentioned before, it does put the progress of ‘modern’ broadband in the UK. While there are numerous cases where those in the countryside are struggling to generate government ambitions of 10 Mbps, the Aussies are progressing very steadily. Now for the numbers.

The population stands at roughly 24.13 million, but it has a land mass of 2.97 million mi². The land mass of the UK is 93,628 mi². If the Aussies are able to put down their schooners, set aside the shrimp and find some time to connect its citizens over such a monstrous amount of land, why are we struggling to find a solution on our tiny little island? We can almost hear the echoes from the other side of the planet; “You call that a broadband network, this is a broadband network”. Oh dear, pass the digestives.

In terms of concrete progress, nbn has said when looking at the non-metro footprint alone, the network is two thirds completed. The metro footprint is one third completed with a strong focus on construction in major cities scheduled for the next twelve months.

“Looking ahead, FY2018 is another significant construction year, and arguably the most visible and difficult as we rollout in high-density cities,” said Morrow. “We are taking our learnings from the first half of the build, and applying them to ensure greater serviceability and efficiencies, particularly as we introduce Fibre-to-the-Curb into the mix.

“nbn performed well against plan in fiscal 2017, and continues to with almost six million homes and businesses able to connect and nearly three million using services on the network today. The momentum is undeniable.”

And while this does seem to be solid progress, it is worth noting the experience for the customer hasn’t always been tip-top. According to News.com.au, customers have been rating the network a 5.9/10, where as in terms of self-appraisal, nbn has given itself a 7. So what is the difference; the individual internet providers of course. nbn has stated much of the ‘negative sentiment’ is not their fault of course.

These are the only numbers which are under dispute either. There have been some issues, but according to the team, 75% of those who have the opportunity to take up the service have done so.

While the figures seem very complimentary to nbn, there are a few cracks to be papered over. News.com.au, however, state the number is closer to 42%. What is likely to be the case is nbn is using some clever word play or qualifiers to bring the numbers up, but this is just a guess from Telecoms.com. In any case, such a lack of transparency is not a promising sign this early on.

Customer satisfaction is of course one of the few metrics which actually matter, but as long as Morrow and his team take the view that the customer doesn’t know much anyway, problems are probably going to persist. The only saving grace is this is not a completed project; things should get better, hopefully.


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