The National Broadband Network today revealed that 4.6 million premises had access to its network as of the end of March this year, more than double the 2 million mark reached a year ago.
After starting out mainly in regional areas, the NBN has increasingly rolled out to metropolitan suburbs in recent months, accelerating the number of premises covered for every metre of cable laid.
NBN chief executive Bill Morrow paid tribute to much-criticised fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technology for the speedy rollout.
“The maturity of the fibre-to-the-node deployment processes means we have seen extraordinary annual growth in our footprint. At the end of the quarter, 1.9 million homes and businesses in Australia could connect to fast broadband using FTTN,” he said.
The NBN started as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) under Labor, which would have offered homes and businesses the fastest speed possible. The Coalition replaced that with FTTN — using the old copper lines from the nearest neighbourhood “node” to the premises – which provide much slower speeds.
In March, the NBN was forced to defend FTTN against complaints that people receiving it were unfairly disadvantaged, especially against its new ‘third way’ compromise technology called fibre-to-the-kerb (which the NBN calls FTTC).
“I can appreciate that people are excited by the potential of FTTC but on a project the size of the NBN you cannot just tear up 18 months of design, planning and construction work that is in the pipeline for FTTN deployment to several million homes and change them to FTTC – that is not how things work in the real world,” NBN chief network engineering officer Peter Ryan said at the time.
The latest quarterly results also showed the number of people that had actually subscribed to the NBN had also more than doubled – passing the 2 million mark at the end of March, compared to 900,000 a year earlier.
With the increased coverage came increased complaints. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman this morning revealed that complaints submitted to it about the NBN had spiked 117.5% in 12 months.
While the NBN immediately responded that this was a “downward trend” of 30% after “taking into account the increase in the number of active services”, the organisation acknowledged that the unprecedented growth in user population meant it had to now concentrate more on “customer experience”.
“We want everyone to have a good experience on our network which is why we are determined to improve our processes and information so that end users can have a constructive discussion with their chosen retailer,” Morrow said.
The chief executive added that it was “in all of our best interests to get the most out of this public investment”, while announcing a year-to-date revenue of $665 million, which is already up 58% from the full year figure for the 2016 financial year.