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NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley Featured

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NBN Co has heavily revised down its forecast for rollout of fibre optic cable, raising fresh doubts about the viability of the biggest infrastructure project in Australia's history.

According to the NBN Co, some of its construction contractors progressed work on the ground at "a slower rate than forecast", leading to a substantial delay as we predicted.

The news comes on one of the most brutal days for the Gillard government, which almost saw another toppled Prime Minister, and is especially poor timing as the Government will likely be using the NBN as one of its key policy platforms come September.

The federal opposition will likely use the failed targets as more ‘broken promises’, along with the introduction of a carbon tax.

The NBN Co’s June 2013 Corporate Plan target of passing 341,000 premises will now not be met, with only between 190,000 and 220,000 premises now forecast to be passed by fibre by end June.

The news will also likely put renewed pressure on CEO Mike Quigley, who's been responsible for a raft of issues including cost blowouts, and recently even questioned whether Fibre to the Home was really the best way to deliver the NBN.

The delay will be apparently recovered, but after at least three a period of three months.

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley said: “We are accountable for the delay and are disappointed it has occurred.

“We work closely with our suppliers across all parts of our network to build and monitor their progress to ensure each individual element is ready within the required timeframe.

“In the case of the volume fibre rollout, NBN Co’s public projections have been underpinned by commitments from our four construction contractors that they would meet the June 30 target.

“The problem is we are just not seeing the ramp up of construction workers on the ground that would be needed to deliver these targets.

“This lack of mobilisation, combined with some of our contractors recently lowering their forecasts, has led us to make the judgment call to reforecast our end-of-year 
projections.

“That is why we have taken immediate action to address the delay.”

The actions Quigley outlined include:

  • NBN Co will directly manage the Northern Territory rollout to ensure the delivery of fast broadband to the NT and to allow contractor Syntheo to focus on WA and SA. This will see NBN Co create up to 200 jobs in the NT at the peak of the rollout.
  • NBN Co and its construction partners will train and employ additional specialist telecoms workers (“fibre splicers”) to help recover lost time in the rollout of the network
  • NBN Co’s fibre construction contractors will increase their investment in equipment and manpower as well as technology to accelerate on-the-ground design and planning.

According to Quigley, other major deliverables for the NBN's fibre network are "tracking well."

”We have more than 40 telephone and internet service providers selling NBN packages to consumers. The rollout of the transit network is on track. We are having no problems with the availability of equipment including the manufacture of fibre, and the implementation of the complex IT systems (OSS/BSS) that underpin the running of the network, also continue to be delivered as expected," he said.

“I should be clear, this short-term issue will not affect the long-term delivery of the  NBN or the overall cost of the project.

“NBN Co remains on track to deliver fast, affordable and reliable broadband to every Australian by 2021 as set out in our Corporate Plan.”

iTWire will keep on top of any more delays, or achievements, as they occur.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. He also writes for Junkee and Fasterlouder. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan

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