Optus, Vocus disappointed but not surprised at NBN's HFC woes

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Optus, Vocus disappointed but not surprised at NBN's HFC woes

Australian retail service providers Optus and Vocus have expressed disappointment at NBN Co's decision to halt the rollout of its hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) network.

NBN Co revealed this week it would halt the rollout until at least June 2018 as it works to improve the quality of service for RSPs and end users.  

The decision means lost time and investments for the telecommunications providers connecting customers to NBN’s HFC technology.

Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vocus Communication represented around 98 percent of all HFC services in operation at 30 September, according to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

An Optus spokesperson said the halt was disappointing. The carrier said it would need to review a deal with NBN, in which it sidelined its own network.

“Under a contract initially signed with NBN Co in 2011, Optus agreed to stop supplying services over its own cable network and migrate its HFC customers to the NBN,” the spokesperson told CRN.

“It is our view that amendments to timelines and changes of approach by NBN Co negatively impacts our customers.

“Optus will need to assess the financial impact of changes to migration payments under our existing HFC payment agreement with NBN Co, and future commitments under that agreement."

Optus said it would work with its customers to resolve any confusion or concerns around the delay.

Vocus Communications group chief executive Geoff Horth told CRN that NBN Co’s decision was disappointing but ultimately the right one.

“The idea that we continue to deploy or connect to the network when it has the performance issues it has would be pretty dumb, so we are in support of the decision to postpone works while remediation occurs,” he said.

Vocus had already scaled back its marketing around HFC, Horth said. The company, while still losing some investment, had been connecting a lower share of HFC than its other product offerings for the past few months.

“The two factors around that decision were: because it's a newer technology it is more complicated from a provisioning perspective; and because of customer experience during that provisioning stage.

"We were also concerned about the customer experience post-connection, so we decided to deprioritise our marketing of it,” he said.

"We need to wait for [NBN] to go back and remediate their network before getting serious about connecting again, that work needs to be done. We won’t get customer experience right until that’s happened, so we’re looking forward to seeing that remediation work take place. "

NBN Co's corporate plan calls for nearly three million premises to ultimately be served by HFC access technology.

Currently, one million premises are "ready to connect" and 370,000 have been connected already. NBN has been adding an average of nearly 80,000 new premises each month.

NBN claimed it would still hit its target to connect eight million active end users and deliver "a fully connected continent by the year 2020".

The HFC improvement work will take place in both locations already deemed ready to connect as well as areas not previously declared ready for service.

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