Why Aren’t More People Connecting To The NBN?

Why Aren’t More People Connecting To The NBN?

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?

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald’s home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


  • I’d love to, too bad I keep getting vague completion dates for my area.

    I am getting glossy letters from Telstra trying to lure me over to signing up to a network that isn’t even available yet.

    • I cancelled Dodo unlimited ADSL for this very reason – except there was no luring, just a “we’re upping your monthly price by $10 to ready you for NBN!” email. I think this was around August/September last year.

      NBN wasn’t even scheduled in my area at the time. Even checking now, the advised time frame is “Oct-Dec 2017”. I hate to think how many people would ignore emails like that and just go with it.

    • This. Some don’t want to switch because they find out (sometimes at the time of signing up) they are paying more for less speed.

      If the network is to be made mandatory, it should be no less than current offerings.

  • Wonder how NBN will handle competition with mobile networks ramping up speed and data allowances as well as Wireless ISP’s like Nuskope and Uniti.

  • We recently got NBN HFC “connected” in my area, but I don’t see the point in switching from my stable-but-sometimes-slow ADSL for a two reasons:

    1. We’re renting, and are planning on moving in 6 months. So there is no way I’m buying an NBN HFC modem that I will hopefully never ever use again after 6 months.

    2. Most of the residents in my area who have switched have reported slow speeds, constant issues and dropouts, and some even had their old connections disconnected with NBN not connected and no reliable ETA yet. Since I work from home, I need stable internet.

    Ultimately, I don’t the see the point. It’s old, crap, technology that should never have been used.

  • We’ve got HFC in my area and honestly, i dont think it would by any faster than ADSL; and all the current offerings are dearer than my current setup. whilst I was initially looking forward to NBN. the combination of Fibre-to-the-shitty-government-decided-node and price just don’t entice me anymore.
    I’ll wait until i’m forced over.

  • Many people I know, including myself have had all sorts of issues joining up to fibre to the node nbn. I was without the phone or internet for 6 weeks while issues where sorted to connect me. People just don’t want all the hassle they are hearing about in rumours which in my experience turn out to be true. Also older non-tech savy people have got absolutely no idea how to even go about changing over, and I had to help out three neighbour families to make heads or tails of it all. The quality of the phone call is sometimes ordinary depending on internet because with fibre to the node you have to have a VoIP service which is completely beyond comprehension of non tech savvy people. Also with fttn there is no battery backup option so when power is down then so is the phone and also if the modem plays up or stops working then you have no phone because it all goes through the modem. Thats really annoying when you aren’t getting phone calls because your modem freezes up and your not aware of it until you realise you have no internet (happened two days ago). People are being forced into buying mobile phones because of the risks so if there not using much internet there not going to sign up to NBN. They’ll use there mobile data.
    Another depressing point is the speed. speeds of fttn can only guarantee 25mb/s so that’s all im going to pay for, which sounds quick but when two kids are streaming stan and YouTube and the wife’s on Netflix and you want to go on the net yourself and watch something or download something then we’re struggling desperately and the streaming services are pixelating and it’s only going to get worse as more services stream online. It is the most disgusting attempt at a future proof internet service that could have ever been dreamt up. It is all so bad I’m not surprised people won’t bother with it and this fttn will definitely have a shorter life span the old copper before it’s all got to be upgraded again.

  • We’re currently getting the nbn™ network up and running in your area.
    There’s still work to do before we connect your premises.

    When will I be connected? They don’t know!

  • Got the letter saying I could get connected to nbn back in feb, signed up the next day.
    No free appointments till a month later.
    Day finally arrives and bloke was here less than 5 mins to say it couldn’t be connected yet.
    Get a message from optus that we’d have an update in 3 weeks.
    Lots of waiting, calling optus and much disappointment later i’m still on cable.

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