The national broadband provider’s latest update shows progress but also some problem areas.
NBN Co’s latest quarterly results show 6.5 million premises are now “ready to connect” to the network, a 44 percent improvement on the year-ago figure.
The number of premises considered “ready for service” has increased even more rapidly, up 62 percent to 7.5 million.
The ready for service number shows the total number of premises in areas where service is available, whereas ready to connect excludes any premises that cannot currently be served within those areas.
Recent activity levels can perhaps be better seen by comparing the latest figures with those for December 2017: ready to connect 6.1 million (now 6.5 million), ready for service 7.1 million (now 7.5 million).
So the number of premises in serviced areas that can't actually connect has remained the same, which means a slight drop in percentage terms.
Problems with the hybrid fibre co-axial (HFC) network were a major contributor to the gap between ready for service and ready to connect. The reintroduction of HFC connections occurred in the current (June) quarter, and so had no effect on the latest figures.
The gradual ‘release’ planned for HFC connections means they won't significantly close the gap until the second half of 2018.
Currently, 3.7 million premises are actually using the NBN. The active figure always lags behind ready to connect figure due to the 18-month changeover period during which occupants can continue to use their old fixed-line phone and broadband services.
The growth in actual connections has had a disproportionate effect on NBN Co's revenue. The number of active premises grew by 85 percent year-on-year, but led to a 112 percent lift in total revenue ($521 million). Average revenue per user ($44 per month) only grew by two percent.
That said, NBN Co's efforts to encourage users onto higher-speed plans seems to be working. In January 2018, less than 20 percent of customers were on 50Mbps or better, but by April that had risen to 42 percent.
Other improvements – achieved with assistance from retail service providers (RSPs) and other partners – include a reduction in average congestion from more than six hours a week per service in March 2017 to 18 minutes today, an increase in ‘right first time’ installations over the last 12 months from 84 percent to 91 percent, and an increase in 'on time' connections from 88 percent to 93 percent.
NBN Co said it is on track to complete 75 per cent of the network build by the end of calendar 2018 and 100 percent by 2020.
“These results demonstrate the progress we're making on our top three priorities, which are to complete the build by 2020, improve the end user experience, and deliver a modest return on the tax payer's investment,” said chief executive Bill Morrow.
“We've shown stable performance against our long-term goals on the build side and significant improvements on customer experience.
“Our monthly progress report demonstrates that our customer experience program is working, and we know there's more to do to get this right. The NBN Co team, delivery partners and RSPs are working quickly to make improvements across the industry for a better experience for all.”