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NBN Co lags on connections, despite ongoing rollout

NBN Co has admitted it needs to focus on connecting Australian homes to fast broadband, rather than just building infrastructure.

The company responsible for the roll-out of the National Broadband Network has admitted it needs to focus on connecting Australian homes to fast broadband, rather than just building infrastructure.

The comments came from the CEO of NBN Co following the release of the company's most recent financial statements and its update on the state of the rollout of the network.

According to NBN Co, in the three months ending 31 March 2014, the number of premises with access to fibre reached 111,035 -- this included fibre to existing built-up areas (brownfields) and new developments (greenfields) and represented an increase of 39 per cent on the previous quarter.

However, a third of all brownfields premises passed by the rollout of NBN fibre (36 per cent or 94,883 premises) were unable to access any services. Connections to individual homes and businesses were previously made at a separate time to the actual fibre rollout, but NBN Co has now instructed its contractors to connect premises "at the same time the fibre is being laid in the street".

"The purpose of the NBN is clear," said NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow. "Our job is to open up the digital economy and close the digital divide. But there are a range of issues we need to address.

"The primary focus for management has been on building the network rather than connecting families and businesses. We need to do both and we need to do them better.

"For instance, we are moving to a construction model that will see our delivery partners install lead-ins and connection boxes to the outside of a home as the fibre is being rolled out in the street. The aim is to increase the number of homes and businesses that are more easily able to connect to the NBN when it becomes available in a neighbourhood.

"There is more to analyse, more to improve and much more industry collaboration needed but we are making progress as evidenced by the metrics we are reporting today."

NBN Co's remit to roll-out the broadband network with a "multi-technology mix" was also further validated with news that the company was able to reach high download and upload speeds in a test of fibre to the node (FTTN) technology.

In a revised Statement of Expectations issued last week, the Federal Government announced that the NBN would need to take a cost-effective approach by using a mixture of fibre to the node, fibre to the premises (FTTP), hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC), fixed wireless and satellite technologies.

NBN Co today confirmed that it had made "solid progress" in meeting the Commonwealth's new expectations.

The company has conducted a trial in Umina on the NSW Central Coast, in order to "test construction methods and the end user experience ahead of a widescale rollout of additional access technologies" such as FTTN. As part of the trial, NBN Co reported raw download speeds of 105 Mbps and upload speeds of 45 Mbps over a distance of around 100 metres.

"This is an important milestone in the rollout of the National Broadband Network," said Morrow. "It demonstrates that existing technologies such as the copper network are capable of playing a vital role in delivering high speed broadband to Australians."