Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Launch of nbn Corporate Plan 2018 – 2021

31 August 2017

E & OE

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for gathering. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were here for the last Corporate Plan.

Well, we can see ahead of us in today's Corporate Plan release that there's a 'big switch' that's occurring in Australia's communications sector.

Over the next year or so we will see nearly two million end-users switch their broadband connection from legacy ADSL and HFC to nbn's new network.

And early in FY19 nbn will take over as the largest wholesale network in Australia with more than five million services in operation.

But before we focus closely on what's changed in this year's corporate plan compared to the last, I just want to take you through the scale-up that has occurred over the past two years. And why that is a standalone achievement which should be recognised.

I've got to say, just because Bill and his team look relaxed, it doesn't mean that they are.

As Australia's largest and most complex infrastructure project, the nbn has been a risky undertaking.

Two years ago, when we released a three-year plan to reach three-quarters of Australians by mid-2018, the plan was derided by the then Shadow Communications Minister as ramp-up that Evel Knievel couldn't jump.

But nbn has managed to achieve what some said was impossible, surpassing six million ready for service, hitting its key targets across three full financial years, and with a rollout completion date now firmly in sight.

The scale-up in activation rates is equally impressive.

There are more than five times as many users on the network today compared to just two years ago[1]. The nbn is now switched on at 1,000 premises every working hour, week in week out. This is the equivalent to switching on the entire city of Bundaberg in a single week.

At the current run rate of 40,000 activations a week, nbn's FY18 target to connect two million more premises will be achieved. This is no mean feat.

Because behind the now routine weekly rollout figures, there is literally an army of skilled field technicians, mum and dad contracting businesses, and nbn's own project managers, engineers and technical specialists making this network a reality.

nbn estimates the field workforce has now exceeded 24,000. That's on top of the 6,000 people employed directly by nbn.

There are some 2,500 Australian subcontracting businesses engaged either directly or indirectly to construct, operate and maintain the network Australia-wide.nbn it's fair to say is transforming the telco industry and its workforce. To date, nbn has funded telco-specific technical training for over 2,000 workers nationwide. And at least this number of workers will receive training this financial year.

Then there are the vendors providing the cabinets, the fibre, the electronics, the cables, the termination devices, and all the other network equipment. Over 70 per cent of nbn's procurement spend to date has been on local content – that is, Australian manufacturing, construction, installation and support activities. nbn will spend $6 billion this financial year on procured goods and services, over 80 per cent of it locally.

Literally thousands of Australian businesses are involved in creating what we know as 'the nbn'. Like one I visited last year, Melbourne-based 'precision engineering' firm Warren and Brown. Their 150 employees, mostly drawn from the neighbouring suburbs around it Maidstone plant, have been kept very busy over the last few years.

This is a national undertaking extending down every street; spanning thousands of square kilometres of land with fixed wireless; and beaming in from satellites 36,000km above the earth.

Right now, the nbn rollout is occurring at more than 1,500 work sites simultaneously, from areas as remote as Cloncurry, to as densely populated areas such as Woolloomooloo.

Just to give you a sense of the reach and complexity of the project, consider the skill, coordination and expert oversight required to successfully complete a single connection.

The integrity of every single design must be ensured. Likewise, the network must be constructed to a uniform level of quality. The operating and business interfaces which link nbn's network to others must be seamless. And the back-of-house coordination has got to be spot-on to activate and assure a single nbn connection.

And then scale that across tens of thousands of premises a week, across a range of technology types, and reach into every corner of Australia.

I mentioned earlier that a 'big switch' was occurring as nbn and RSPs migrate millions of end users across to the new network.

While consumers are busy making the switch, nbn as a business is also undergoing a transition from a project and construction management company, into a wholesale network operator.  Now, some of the processes that underpin that network operator role are still maturing and we can see that in some of the issues which consumers are raising.

So, before I hand over to Bill, I do want to speak briefly about what the industry and nbn are doing to make the process of switching to the nbn more consumer-focused.

We all recognise that households and businesses are highly dependent on their internet connections and staying connected is vitally important.

Last week, I convened an industry roundtable involving nbn and RSP CEOs to secure joint action to better support customers during the peak migration period.

nbn itself already has a broad stream of work underway and — with the help of retailers — consumers can expect more useful and practical information explaining how to connect to the NBN and what to do if services aren't meeting expectations.

Similarly, nbn is taking steps to improve appointment-keeping and service continuity. A clear example of this is nbn's decision to complete lead-ins in HFC areas prior to accepting orders. This process will allow nbn to more effectively manage its order workload and appointment-keeping. It will also reduce the waiting time between an order being place and the service being switched on — something that's particularly important for business./p>

There is no doubt that the know-how nbn has gained from the rollout so far has led to cost savings, process improvements, industry confidence, and greater certainty for consumers.nbn will apply this same know-how this year to delivering the best possible consumer experience.

I do want to take this opportunity to commend and congratulate Ziggy Switkowski, the Board and Bill Morrow and the management team for the substantial and significant success of the past year, and for nailing key milestones. This is an important national venture and change from when we came into office to where we are today is nothing less than one of the most significant turnarounds in Australian corporate history.Thanks very much.

[ends]


Media contact:

Geraldine Mitchell | 0407 280 476 | Geraldine.mitchell@communications.gov.au

[1] 2.7 million premises activated as at 30 August 2017 compared to 485,000 at end June 2015.
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