More than half of the five million Australian premises with NBN access have ignored the new network, but the story isn't quite so grim once you dive into the numbers.
The National Broadband Network rollout racks up another milestone this week, with five million homes and businesses now able to connect to the NBN via their retail service provider of choice. The rollout certainly hasn't gone smoothly, with some homes still stuck in broadband limbo, but it seems that the majority of Australians aren't even interested in signing up.
Tech-savvy Aussies languishing on flaky DSL might intend to jump on the NBN the day it reaches their doorstep, so it's hard to get your head around the idea that only 2.2 million of the 5 million Ready For Service premises have actually taken the plunge. With the 18-month cut-off clock ticking on your existing broadband service as soon as your neighbourhood goes Ready For Service – or less in the case of Optus cable – what are these people waiting for?
For starters, the NBN doesn't expect every premises to connect once the rollout is complete around 2020. It's actually only expecting 75 per cent to sign up, once you allow for competition from alternative high-speed network providers, as well as those homes which choose to stick with mobile-only services and premises like holiday houses where the owners might not see the need to connect to the NBN.
Once you allow for this, the 2.2 million existing NBN customers looks more like a 60 per cent takeup rate. Then you need to consider the lag time between when an area is declared Ready For Service, when you're contacted by NBN, when you get around to doing something about it and when they can actually hook you up.
There is an NBN installation backlog, for example only 83 per cent of HFC areas are offering installation appointments within the agreed service level of eight working days. There are examples of that time blowing out to weeks or even months.
Sometimes the delays are simply due to overworked installers, but they're also linked to backhaul issues which lie beyond NBN's control.
The NBN network has 121 Points of Interconnect (PoI) around the country, often at your local telephone exchange. NBN is responsible for the link from the PoI to your home, but it's up to your retailer to run a fibre connection to each PoI or else rent backhaul from wholesalers like Telstra and Optus.
A case in point is Aussie Broadband, which recently ditched shared Optus backhaul in favour of dedicated links from Telstra because Aussie Broadband recognised the impact that flaky backhaul was having on its customers.
Even allowing for this change, Aussie Broadband has decided not to hook up new customers to PoIs where backhaul is running at more than 80 per cent capacity – it would rather ask those customers to wait until more backhaul is available than offer them a substandard service.
At the other end of the spectrum there are reports of some retailers signing up NBN customers in areas before their backhaul is in place, meaning they're unable to connect those homes, and then blaming the connection delays on NBN. It's a shabby way to treat customers and not helping NBN's PR problem.
After a spate of activation and backhaul horror stories, some Australians who want to use the NBN would be holding off until they were convinced that they were going to get a decent service, especially if they're satisfied with their existing broadband.
NBN is also skipping more and more premises with installation complications, in order to speed up the rollout, although this shouldn't be affecting the takeup numbers as these premises wouldn't be included in the Ready For Service figures.
You certainly couldn't say that the NBN rollout has been smooth sailing but, once you allow for all these issues, it's an oversimplification to say that more than half premises with NBN access have ignored the new network. How does the NBN situation look in your neighbourhood?