NBN has been working to address problems encountered by households connected via hybrid fibre-coaxial before it gives retail service providers (RSPs) the green light to resume sales of HFC services. However, the company’s chief customer officer, residential, Brad Whitcomb, says an announcement about HFC sales can be expected in April.
“Work is underway with RSPs to ensure we are ready as an industry to restart sales of services over this network and we’ll provide more specifics around the timing of our relaunch next month,” he told a media briefing on the company’s new monthly progress report.
The government-owned company announced in November that it would temporarily halt sales of HFC services while it worked on addressing performance problems encountered by some of its end users.
“We did this so we could do more work on the network upfront in order to deliver a higher level of customer experience,” Whitcomb said. “This was an acknowledgement that as important as it is to complete the rollout by 2020, it’s also vitally important that the services provided over the NBN access network allow our RSP partners to deliver the level of customer experience that Australians demand.”
NBN has “completed a number of trials” since the pause was implemented, the NBN executive said.
“These trials have been successful and we’re now applying our learnings to our growing HFC footprint.”
NBN remains on track to have connected 8 million homes and businesses on the network by 2020, he said.
When it announced the HFC hiatus, NBN said it would conduct “advanced network testing and remediation where needed, wholesale connector replacements, signal amplification calibration, and lead-in work as required” in order to deliver a better experience for end users.
NBN CEO Bill Morrow said he expected a six to nine month delay in connecting premises that were slated to use the technology.
In December, NBN’s chairperson, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, acknowledged that the pause in HFC sales could impact the company’s ability to meet its short-term financial targets.
In February this year, Morrow told a half-year results briefing that NBN was not yet ready to reveal a timeline for resuming sales of HFC services.
“We’re now conducting upgrade work to improve the service quality on HFC and it’s still too early to be specific on timelines for releasing this footprint, but we are progressing quickly and I look forward to updating you shortly,” the CEO said.
With the shift away from relying purely on fibre to the premises (FTTP) for the fixed-line portion of the National Broadband Network, HFC is one of the key technologies being used as part of a ‘multi technology mix’ rollout.
NBN’s current corporate plan forecasts connecting 3.1 million premises with HFC by the end of FY20. (The performance of another key fixed-line technology employed by NBN, fibre to the node (FTTN), has also been the subject of significant scrutiny.)
NBN’s HFC rollout is based on cable infrastructure originally rolled out by Telstra and Optus. However the company in 2016 decided to ditch its planned use of the Optus HFC assets outside of a sole Brisbane suburb.
Instead most of the premises in the Optus HFC footprint are being connected with fibre to the curb (FTTC) .