NBN Co has released its 2014-17 corporate plan amid continuing uncertainties about its ability to meet both construction and financial targets.
The plan is, in fact, really only a plan for the next 12 months – an interim report pending the finalisation of the reworked Definitive Agreement with Telstra and renegotiation of the HFC arrangements with Optus. With the move to the Multi-Technology Mix (MTM) approach adopted by the Coalition government, the fate of nearly 7 million premises (out of a total of 12.4) will depend on these negotiations.
In the absence of certainty in these areas, there is not much point trying to set forward looking targets. So much of the plan is taken up reporting on current roll-out progress.
Much of the focus over the last 12 months has been on addressing problems related to the Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) roll-out, both in greenfields and brownfields (existing) locations.
Here the problem of “service class zero” premises has been a priority. These are premises which have been “passed” by the network but are not connected to it – meaning that customers can’t get a service even if they are in an area that has been deemed ready for full cutover to the NBN.
Such a situation may produce good “homes passed” figures but it’s hardly good for business. As well as retro-fitting lead-ins to current service class zero premises, NBN Co is now requiring its construction partners to adopt a “build drop” method i.e. provide the lead-ins at the time the local network construction work is being done.
This will, of course, require a different skill mix in construction teams. It is not clear how readily prime contractors will be able to meet these new workforce needs.