nbn co suspends HFC rollout

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 29 November, 2017

nbn co suspends HFC rollout

nbn co has suspended the rollout of the hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) component of the nbn, blaming technical difficulties.

In a statement, the company said “too many” of the roughly 370,000 premises so far connected via HFC had been experiencing technical difficulties or inadequate quality of services.

The company has accordingly paused new orders over the HFC access network and expects a delay of between six and nine months for deployments in all new HFC rollout areas.

Nearly one million premises are ready to connect to the HFC network, but the nbn corporate plan calls for nearly 3 million premises to be connected using the last-mile technology.

The HFC component of the nbn is being repurposed from pay TV networks sold to nbn co by Telstra and Optus.

nbn co paid $800 million for the Optus HFC network and took ownership of the Telstra HFC network as part of its $11 billion deal to acquire Telstra’s copper assets and underground infrastructure and migrate Telstra customers to the nbn.

nbn co has already been forced to abandon the use of the Optus HFC network — which was due to be used for 700,000 premises — after acknowledging that the cables were in a poor state and not suitable for providing nbn services.

The Telstra HFC network has similar issues, and nbn co’s announcement raises the question of whether the HFC component will be scaled back even further.

But nbn co CEO Bill Morrow called HFC “an important part of nbn co’s technology mix” and said the technology is being used around the world to deliver high-speed broadband services. He insisted that the delay is merely about improving the customer experience.

“So we can provide a better experience to our customers and their end users, nbn co will immediately implement new initiatives designed to improve the quality of service for end users on our HFC network,” he said.

“There are so many elements of this industry transformation that we cannot directly control, but we are serious about improving that which we can. This is a deliberate change to demonstrate nbn co’s focus on putting the customer experience as a priority over all else.”

Despite the delay, Morrow insisted that it remains on track to complete the nbn rollout and have eight million active end users connected by 2020.

In a doorstop interview, Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said nbn co’s comments about delaying the rollout to improve the customer experience is spin that “could be matched by Shane Warne”. She said the reality is that the multitechnology-mix model has failed.

“Let’s remember, this is a network that Malcolm Turnbull promised would be finished to every Australian by the end of 2016. We are only weeks away from 2018 and now these customers are being told they’re going to have a further delay of between six and nine months,” she said.

“So what does that say about Malcolm Turnbull? He’s the first to lecture everyone on engineering and economics. He’s the one who said that the HFC network would be a huge game changer... Well, we know now that nbn, that this government, that this Prime Minister, is too scared to be rolling out HFC because it’s not working.”

Rowland also noted that HFC is the predominant access technology being rolled out in the electorate of Bennelong, which is being contested in a crucial by-election after the resignation of Liberal party incumbent John Alexander as part of the dual citizenship crisis.

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