Peter Ryan
New processes and increased training are moving the customer experience needle but there’s more work to be done.

With the nbn™ broadband access network now almost two-thirds built and on target to hit its 2020 completion goal, NBN Co is doing its part to help ensure that Australians who connect to the access network get the best experience possible.

Having spent time listening to feedback from end users on the access network, we wanted to show Australians the results of our focus on customer experience by sharing a range of construction and operational measures that are critical in helping phone and internet providers give Australians the service levels they expect.

Overcoming challenges on the nbn™ HFC network

In the last six months, one of the difficult decisions we made – ultimately, with improved customer experience in mind – was to temporarily pause sales of Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) services (built on the existing pay TV network) on the nbn™ access network to phone and internet providers.

This decision was one of the toughest we’ve had to make and served as an acknowledgement that, as important as it is to complete the rollout by 2020, it is critical that the services we provide to phone and internet providers over the nbn™ access network enable them to deliver an improved customer experience.

We are now well on the way to bringing improved nbn™ HFC services back online for sale to phone and internet providers. Around 36,000 homes and businesses across Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are due to be declared ‘ready to connect’ by the end of June.

This will be the first of what we expect to be many HFC releases over the coming months as we refine our processes and ramp up our release schedule so an average of 100,000 premises per month can be put back into market throughout the second half of 2018.

We are taking a conservative approach in releasing limited premises back for resale as we want to ensure we have fully optimised and improved HFC connections on the nbn™ access network ahead of launching back at scale.

Optimising the nbn™ HFC access network

For those currently connected to the nbn™ HFC access network, we’ve been working hard to improve the end-user experience with additional remediation work being completed to improve their services. Trial results are showing early positive signs of improvements with fewer service faults being reported to NBN Co from phone and internet providers.

We now implement two new streams of work to optimise HFC connections on the nbn™ access network to ensure our equipment has been properly tuned to deliver the best possible service.

The first is what we call “tap up”, which includes everything on NBN Co’s side of the network, from the pit in the street right through to the exchanges that connect to the wider internet.

The other half of the optimisation work focuses on what we call “tap down”, which essentially follows the cables from the pit in your street and into your home where HFC services on the nbn™ access network are delivered.

We are also continuing to build lead-ins and network extensions to reduce connection time frames throughout the frozen HFC footprint.

The work we have done on HFC is akin to flattening and re-tarring the surface of a road so drivers (HFC end users) who were having a bumpy experience can now drive on a more stable road.

This work does not end here. We have also injected extra capacity upgrades to the access network and are working towards introducing the super-fast DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which will be capable of delivering 1Gbps peak wholesale download speeds in the near future.

Clearing our backlog of aged orders

While the work we have been doing on the nbn™ HFC access network has been incredibly important, it is just one part of our broader efforts across the business to put customer experience – no matter what nbn™ Multi-Technology Mix access technology they may be on – at the heart of everything we do.

We are working closer than ever with our industry partners to roll out the access network with the aim of delivering it to end users in the most seamless manner possible.

The seeds of these changes have started to bear fruit with our recently launched monthly progress reports showing steady decline in the overall number of individual service faults reported on the access network, as well as an increase in our ability to install equipment right the first time.

This time last year, when NBN Co technicians turned up at a home or business to connect it to our network, we were completing ‘right the first time’ installations 84 per cent of the time. This ‘right the first time’ metric measures the percentage of homes and businesses that have their nbn™ equipment correctly installed the first time the installation is attempted without additional work from NBN Co.

For the first time, that percentage has now climbed to 91 per cent. To help drive this number up, we have made significant progress in clearing our backlog of ‘aged orders’. These are complex installations that take more than 28 calendar days for NBN Co to action due to a range of factors such as heritage-listed buildings or needing external approval factors like council approval.

We have reduced these aged orders by 76 per cent since December 2017 and our team isn’t stopping there, either. We will continue to work with industry to improve our processes to clear complex installations and deliver these within our agreed time frames with phone and internet providers.

Increased focus on reducing faults

We have also improved our ability to fix individual standard service faults on the nbn™ access network within the time frames we promise to phone and internet providers. While a year ago we were only hitting that target 60 per cent of the time, we are now meeting agreed fault restoration times 87 per cent of the time.

To help reduce the number of faults on the access network, we’ve worked closely with our phone and internet providers, as well as our Delivery Partners, to ensure our technicians are better skilled and resourced to correctly resolve a fault the first time.

Typically, faults occur within the first few months a user is connected, so the impact of correctly installing the access network the first time is critical in preventing future faults. As we have seen our progress in this area increase, we have also been able to stabilise and steadily reduce the number of faults reported on the nbn™ access network.

Together, these improvements and results show that while we are asking more of our network than ever before in delivering the speeds Australians want, we are doing so in a measured manner aimed at keeping customer experience as our number one priority.

We are moving in the right direction, but we also know there’s more work to be done and will continue to collaborate with industry to improve.

Peter Ryan

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