nbn performance under the spotlight

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 03 August, 2017

nbn performance under the spotlight

The performance of the nbn has become a hot topic in recent days, with nbn co CEO Bill Morrow sparring with retail service providers over who’s to blame for poor nbn speeds as regulator ACMA launches a review into customer experience issues with the national network.

In a blog post, Morrow stated that slow nbn speeds can be attributed to retail nbn service providers purchasing insufficient Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) capacity for each customer.

“It’s the CVC charge that has become the fulcrum between cost and quality that we are seeing today. Purchase enough CVC and an end user’s traffic should be able to flow close to the speeds their plan is based on. But buy too little CVC and traffic flowing to the phone and internet company’s network during peak time will be slower,” he said.

While retail providers are pressuring nbn to reduce the CVC charge, Morrow said nbn has to strike a balance between cost, quality and the need to make a return on the government’s $49 billion investment in the network.

nbn has already reduced the CVC on three separate occasions, from an initial $20 per Mbps per month to a current industry average of $14.40 per Mbps per month, and lower for higher bandwidth purchased.

“Indeed, the average CVC being purchased across the industry works out to about 1 Mbps for each end user — under our pricing model, that could be doubled to 2 Mbps for each end user for around an extra $5 per month,” Morrow said, adding that the CVC is far from the only factor that influences the final price of a retail nbn connection.

But retail nbn providers have derided nbn co’s pricing model for the CVC. TPG COO Craig Levy told the ABC that the CVC charge in Australia is among the highest in the modern world, stating that the current CVC model “needs to disappear”.

New market entrant MyRepublic has meanwhile called on nbn co to give Australia a pricing model that is “fit for purpose”. The company’s managing director of Australia and New Zealand, Nicholas Demos, said the current wholesale pricing model “promotes a poor user experience, with low AVC speed tiers being available and the opportunity for some RSPs to scrimp on the CVC, and that all affects the perception of the nbn product”.

AVC is the access virtual circuit charge, a fixed charge for each end user that varies based on the speed of connection being purchased by the retail service provider.

Customer experience under review

In light of a growing number of reports of consumer problems involving migration to the nbn, ACMA has launched a review into customer experience issues regarding the rollout.

The telecommunications regulator has commissioned research based on information from customers about their experience before, during and after migration to the nbn, spanning the multiple access technologies that constitute the network.

ACMA will also use its statutory powers to demand that nbn co as well as 20 nbn wholesale and retail providers provide data on a range of customer satisfaction issues.

These include fault handling, connection timeframes, appointment keeping and the porting of numbers to nbn connections.

ACMA, the Department of Communications and the ACCC are part of a working group focused on improving the nbn customer experience. The working group previously devised the ACCC’s recently announced broadband performance monitoring program.

In a statement to the ABC, an nbn co spokeswoman meanwhile pledged to end the “blame game” involving nbn and retail service providers shifting the blame for network faults or delays connecting a premise to the nbn.

The spokeswoman was responding to a recent 7.30 report detailing the frustrations of a customer who was forced to wait 70 days for an easily identifiable fault — a severed overhead internet cable — to be fixed.

Communications Alliance, the peak body for Australia’s telecoms industry, is meanwhile working to review the codes and guidelines its various working committees have developed for nbn migration matters.

These working committees cover areas including migrating premises to fibre to the premise (FTTP) or node (FTTN) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) services, processes for cabling connections to the nbn, number portability and migrating connected devices to the new network.

“nbn and retail service providers have been and continue to work intensely behind the scenes to identify and address any process or coordination issues during service migration and to optimise the ongoing service performance,” Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said.

“Communications Alliance and its members stand ready to do whatever is needed to help ensure that the national investment in broadband can reap an appropriate dividend for Australian consumers and businesses.”

Internet Australia, the peak body for Australia’s internet users, has welcomed the ACMA review. “This is something we’ve been calling for and Senator Fifield is to be commended for acknowledging that this project has serious problems,” Executive Director Laurie Patton said.

He said Morrow has recently been out on a “charm offensive”, which indicates that the government has realised that the nbn rollout is not working as intended.

“Mr Morrow has been spinning so vigorous he must be getting giddy. But the fact remains customer complainants are continuing to rise the more they roll out their inferior, trouble-plagued network.”

Patton said there are two core problems with the nbn that the government most confront to solve these issues.

“They’re using inferior technology, employing ageing copper wires that just can’t deliver, and their wholesale pricing regime is flawed. All up, this means customers are being served up a product they clearly don’t like much,” he said.

Image courtesy nbn

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