NBN Co will move back to a model where it connects fibre to every house or apartment at the same time as it rolls fibre down the street – the so-called “build drop” method of customer connections. However, unlike in the past, it will not seek permission from every household before bringing fibre to the building – customers will have to specifically opt-out if they don’t want the fibre.
NBN Co trialled a two-stage “demand drop” build for some of the second-release sites, where fibre is first run in the designated rollout area and then connections are added to homes once orders have been made for connections. It is still currently using the demand-drop model, but a spokesperson confirmed to CommsDay that it will make the rollout changes soon.
NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley said the move to a build-drop rollout would mean accelerated capital expenditure but would be more efficient over the long term. Speaking at the launch of NBN Co’s latest corporate plan, he also said that it would require more consultation from the company.
“One of the things that we have had to take into account of the additional costs of executing all this is a much greater level of communication with the general public,” he said, adding that the company anticipated that most households would see that the connection is not costing them anything and would be welcomed.
When it first moved to the demand-drop build for second-release sites last year, NBN Co noted that it stepped around the need to obtain written consent from property owners. However, a spokesperson told CommsDay that the company will be able to attach fibre to the outside of the building without specific consent.
The NBN Co spokesperson said property owners will be given notification and then have a set period in which to opt out if they choose. It is covered by the same rights that telcos and utilities now have in gaining access to property, the spokesperson said.
As a result, NBN Co set out in its current corporate plan that it expected 90% of brownfields single dwellings to be connected, with the remaining 10% either opting out or vacant homes. It stated that build-drops from the street to the premises was the most effective way to minimise mobilisation/de-mobilisation costs and was, in part, a consequence of the greater certainty in uptake due to the commencement of the Telstra and Optus agreements.
NBN Co also noted that due to the changes, incremental costs have been embedded in the new plan for the notification process and access to premises for the installation of the lead-in from street to the building.
As well as greater consultation with households, the report highlighted the need for greater engagement with multi-dwelling groups such as body corporates – something it did not address in the earlier corporate plan.
The new plan incorporates a provision for increased costs relating to the design and cabling of all end-user units inside apartment blocks. NBN Co will build the local network inside MDUs and said it will need to have a higher degree of engagement with body corporate entities and undertake site surveys ahead of time, incurring the detailed design and installation costs for the internal cabling.
“This process is now anticipated to increase costs, on average, above the cost of connecting an SDU, and will be compounded by the diversity in MDU designs, the low number of end-user premises per MDU location (average 9 units per MDU building, excluding duplexes) and the age of these MDUs (lack of riser infrastructure),” it noted.
The new plan also stated that public interest premises such as schools, hospitals, universities and aged care facilities will be specifically consulted in order to provide appropriate connection solutions.