The company behind Australia’s National Broadband Network, nbn, has reached what it claims is a milestone in the network’s rollout, notching up four million premises that are now now ready for service.
The landmark rollout tally means that nbn’s network is now available to more than one third of all Australian premises.
At the same time, the number of premises that are ready for service outstrips the number of subscriptions to the network by a factor of more than two to one. As of the week ending 2 February, there were 1,764,661 premises active on the network.
However, this figure is up from the 1,649,806 premises activated, as listed in nbn’s rollout update figures as of 29 December last year, indicating substantial progress in the network’s uptake.
These figures reflect the tally in the Australian competition watchdog’s quarterly National Broadband Network Wholesale Market Indicators Report, which showed that, as of 31 December 2016, nbn was supplying 1,705,270 broadband wholesale access services to network resellers.
While the number of new premises ready for network service grew by 287,656 between 2 February 2017 and 29 December 2016, the number of premises activated in the same period has rose by 114,855, according to nbn’s figures.
It should be noted, however, that there is an 18-month disconnection window from when an nbn service area module (SAM) goes active until end-users have to switch over to the NBN. As a result, the number of premises Ready for Service will always be a step ahead of activation numbers.
Further, nbn expects the take-up rate on the network to be around 70 per cent by 2020, with the remaining 30 per cent of premises either only mobile-only premises or premises that do not require an NBN connection.
With this in mind, nbn chief engineering officer, Peter Ryan, has touted the new rollout milestone as a great achievement, and “testament to the hard work of our people and our delivery partners”.
“We now have the flexibility and the right technologies in place to design and build the network at the speed and scale needed to reach our end goal by 2020,” Ryan said.
“With these four million premises our halfway built milestone comes into focus – we are expecting to reach this around the middle of the year.”
Certainly, the rate of the network’s rollout has quickened over the past two years. By the end of December 2014 nbn had made just 778,824 premises ready for service.
In the following two years, a further 3.22 million premises have been made ready for service to the network.
According to nbn, much of the rollout’s quickening pace can be attributed to the various technologies it is using under the government’s multi-technology mix (MTM) approach, which includes fibre-to-the-basement, fibre-to-the-node (FttN), hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC), and Sky Muster satellite broadband.
“FttN is the driving force behind the increased pace of the build thanks to the very fast pace with which it can be designed and deployed with well over 1 million FttN premises already RFS,” nbn said in a statement.
Australia’s Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, has also praised the latest rollout tally, backing up nbn’s claim that the MTM approach has helped to push the network rollout’s pace.
“The accelerating speed of the rollout is thanks to a multi-technology approach. Prior to adopting this approach it took nbn three years to connect just 51,000 premises and the rollout was years behind schedule,” Fifield said in a statement.
While the rollout milestone has been lauded by Fifield, the network’s deployment up to this point has come under intense scrutiny from industry and the public alike.
As Australia’s largest and most expensive publicly-funded infrastructure project, the network has become a political football, used for point scoring by both sides of Australian politics, with the current government’s MTM approach brought in with the intention of saving time and money on the rollout.
However, the MTM approach has had its own problems, with the proposed use of the HFC networks that once belonged to Telstra and Optus running into a snag when the Optus network was found to be “not fit for purpose”.
As it stands, nbn aims to complete the rollout, which is forecast to connect 11.9 million premises, and see 8 million premises activate on the network, by 2020.