NBN: “It is going to take months to iron out much of the issues”

Angus Kidman 14 November 2017
Bill Morrow

nbn CEO Bill Morrow: "We have a long ways to go."

Improvements to how we get connected to broadband are promised, eventually.

The latest quarterly update for NBN shows that 6.4 million households can now connect to the high-speed broadband service. That said, less than 50% of those households (2.9 million) have done so. Even though the NBN will eventually render the current phone network inoperable, even nbn (the company building the network) doesn't expect more than 75% of customers to sign up within 18 months of it becoming available.

There are many reasons why people don't get on board. One of the less-discussed factors is that the experience of actually being connected can be shoddy. That process is handled by the provider you choose (the RSP in NBN-speak), but much of the crucial detail about what happens is managed by nbn. The end result is often confusion, delays and missed appointments, and a general feeling of disgruntlement.

CEO Bill Morrow says that improving that is going to be a key goal over the next year. There's a renewed emphasis on providing analytical tools for the field workers who are rolling out the NBN. As well, customers won't be told their premises are available for service until all relevant civil works have been completed. Processes for setting appointments for connections and dealing with more unusual connection issues are also being updated.

While those changes should offer a better experience eventually, Morrow says that will take a while. "It is going to take months to iron out much of the issues," he said during a conference call announcing NBN's quarterly results. (Once again nbn is making my inner grammar Nazi cringe.) "While we have a long ways to go and we are taking very serious the effect that we have at NBN on the end user experience... we know that we are starting to see some of the breakthroughs occur."

In support of that argument, Morrow noted that complaints about the NBN to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman were down 26% in the most recent quarter. Given that they had gone up 159.3% in that report, it's a trend in the right direction but more still needs to be done.

Morrow also noted that take-up rates are similar regardless of whether households get an all-fibre FTTP connection or a more copper-dependent FTTN or FTTC connection. While geeks like me obsess with the details of those different technologies, the average household just wants something that is (a) cheaper (b) faster (c) works. The improvements in roll-out will hopefully ensure that (c) happens more often, even if (b) is in the lap of the copper gods and (a) is unlikely because of the wholesale pricing model.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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