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NBN halts all new HFC connections, warns of 9-month delays

Roughly 2.5 million Australians waiting to get the NBN over HFC now have even longer to wait as NBN addresses drop-out issues.

nbnconstruction-pit.jpg

Don't expect an NBN connection anytime soon if you're in an HFC area. 

NBN Co

If you're one of the roughly 2.5 million Australians still yet to connect to the NBN via HFC, then we have bad news: Your service is going to be delayed another six to nine months.

NBN has confirmed it is "pausing" further orders of NBN service over HFC technology, effective immediately. The company plans to get through the current backlog of orders and will still take orders for service from ISPs over the next two weeks, but customers waiting for service after that will have their access to the national broadband network delayed.

In a press briefing on Monday, NBN CEO Bill Morrow said the steps were being taken to ensure a strong "customer experience."

Hybrid Fibre Coaxial is the same cable technology used to bring Foxtel to houses around Australia, and is just one of the access technologies used to deliver the NBN under the federal government's multi-technology mix (alongside fibre to the premises, satellite for remote communities and the much-debated fibre to the node).

NBN took ownership of Australia's legacy HFC networks from Telstra and Optus in 2014. But in 2016 NBN ditched Optus' network, thanks to "up-to-date learnings" about how difficult it was to get premises onto the network using that technology.

Now, HFC is causing even more grief.

"The reality is this is someone else's network," Morrow said on Monday, adding that the company doesn't believe the move to pull HFC connections was a "stuff up."

NBN says roughly 3 million Australians will eventually be brought onto the national broadband network via HFC technology. Currently, 1.2 million of those premises are ready for service and, of those, "nearly 1 million" are ready to connect. But within that number, only 370,000 premises are connected and running on HFC, leaving millions of Australians with no set details on when they'll be able to connect.

Morrow said the problems around HFC were not speed related, adding that the technology is "capable of delivering gigabit speeds." Rather, a "minority" of customers were experiencing drop-outs due to the frequency band NBN uses on the HFC network, but these issues were only known when customers were connected to the network. 

"We are not going to sacrifice customer experience just for the pace of the rollout," Morrow said, when explaining the decision to halt HFC activations.

The move does not effect customers currently up and running on the HFC network, though Morrow advised those Australians already on HFC to get in touch with their Internet Service Provider if they've experienced issues.

But it's bad news for the roughly 2.5 million Australians who have been waiting for the NBN to come to their area, or for those who are classified as "ready to connect" but who haven't put in an order. NBN says these premises will continue to be able to access (non-NBN) ADSL while they wait.

NBN says the delay will taper down from the current additional expected wait time of six to nine months. Morrow was also at pains to reiterate that the problem would not cause NBN to miss its target of completing the network by 2020.

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