The company behind the National Broadband Network (NBN), nbn, has said it is stepping up its efforts to reduce lengthy connection times as it notches up three million activations on the network around the country.
The network builder said it had added a million activations in the last six months alone, claiming that the increase in activations demonstrates the “success” of the Government’s preferred multi technology mix (MTM) rollout model, which has long been a source of contention.
Regardless, nbn has lauded its latest tally and the MTM approach, with 2 million customers connecting to the nbn access network in the past 17 months, and 1.4 million of these connections being made via from fibre-to-the-node (FttN) and hybrid-fibre-coaxial (HFC).
At the same time, nbn appears to be facing mounting criticism over lengthy connection times head on, saying that it is already hard at work doing what it can to improve end customers’ connection experience and the online experience once people are connected.
“In terms of getting connected, we’re focused on what we call ‘aged tickets’ within the nbn system – customers who’ve been waiting too long to connect to the nbn access network,” nbn's chief network engineering officer, Peter Ryan, said in a blog post. “Aged tickets happen when something out of the ordinary occurs that means we cannot connect the premises to the nbn access network.
“We’re now working flat out to resolve aged tickets older than four weeks out of the system. We want these premises connected to the network as soon as possible.
“At the same time, we’re also turning our attention to making sure that these aged tickets don’t appear in the first place by working with our delivery partners and internet providers to ensure we’re all properly aligned in the activations process and know exactly what is going on with each premises,” it said.
The company said that its ultimate aim is to stop customers getting “ping-ponged” between itself and NBN retail service providers (RSPs) to solve a problem.
“We know this has to stop,” it said. “To help do this we want to give our delivery partners in the field the tools and resources to get that activation done right first time as much as possible.
“We’re empowering our delivery partners so that the technician that visits your house has the tools to finish the job while they are there. We don’t want them leaving until the job is done,” it said.
Specifically, nbn said it is working to improve its communications process with internet providers to make sure it keeps them informed of all network outages and incidents, so when issues occur on the network they can keep their customers informed.
In addition, nbn said it is developing new network diagnostic tools to help RSPs identify problems on the end-to-end network where they exist.
Indeed, the company said it is working on a system that helps it identify where there may be problems in the customer’s in-home wiring or modem. Meanwhile, nbn is continuing to put a certain level of responsibility on RSPs.
"To be quite clear, this doesn’t mean we’re taking over the whole show – the internet providers remain responsible for a number of factors impacting the online experience," nbn said.
"Our focus is on making sure we connect users to the nbn access network in the best way possible and that we keep the network up and running so it’s there when users need it.
"The internet providers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their customer’s online experience. We cannot, for example, force the internet providers to increase their network bandwidth to avoid congestion – that is a matter for them," it said.
Late last year, Australia's Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) revealed in its annual report, published on 17 November, that Australians made 112,518 new complaints to the independent dispute resolution service provider during the preceding financial year, with NBN complaints on the increase.
During the period, new complaints about mobile services fell, while internet and NBN-related complaints both rose significantly. In fact, new complaints about faults on NBN services surged by 147.8 per cent, according to the report.
“We saw nearly a 100 per cent increase in the number of NBN related complaints this year, but the rate of growth is lower than the growth of active services” Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Judi Jones, said at the time.
"Delays in connections to the network, faults including unusable services, and dropout of services were regularly reported, which is of concern," she said.