Australia NBN faces 3-month delay as rollout stalls

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) has suffered a setback with the buildout falling 10 weeks behind schedule due to what it says is a lack of qualified workers and "ambitious" targets.

Bunya Estate Stephen Conroy

Australian Minister Stephen Conroy (center), at the Dec. 2011 launch of NBN Co. services at Bunya Estate, New South Wales. Conroy asked NBN Co. this week for more information about buildout delays. (Image source: NBN Co.)

The delay means that NBN Co. will likely not meet the original construction goals.

The service provider previously said that it expected the NBN network would pass 341,000 premises by the middle of this year, but as of the end of last year it only passed 72,400 premises with the network. It has issued a revised rollout forecast that the network will pass between 190,000 and 220,000 premises with fiber by the end of June.

Stephen Conroy, Australia's Communications Minister, said in a statement that the government would like more clarity about NBN Co.'s goals and progress.

"I have sought information from NBN Co to assist in bringing together and overcoming those challenges," Conroy said in a statement. "But NBN Co has an enormous challenge organizing with its contracting partners that ramp-up and we have made it clear that there are challenges in meeting those targets and we are seeking more information."

Project delays have been an ongoing issue for the NBN.

After Syntheo, one of its major network contractors, was not able to reach its construction target of 300,000 premises in Australia's Northern Territory, NBN Co. decided to take over construction in the region. After winning a contract to build the Western Australia portion of the network, it was awarded the Northern Territory contract last November.

NBN Co. said that by taking over construction of the Northern Territory piece of the network, Syntheo can focus on Western and Southern Australia, while creating 200 new jobs.

Despite these delays, NBN Co.'s CEO Mike Quigley maintains that it is making progress and that it will meet its goal to complete the network by 2021.

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

Siobhan McKenna, NBN Co

McKenna (Image source:NBN Co.)

Among those competitive providers that are delivering services on the NBN is Internode, which now operates as a subsidiary of iiNet. Last November, Internode introduced a wireline voice service for the NBN.

In related news, NBN Co. appointed Siobhan McKenna as Chairman, who will succeed Harrison Young. Young decided not to run for reelection after his three-year term expired last Thursday.

Although McKenna's appointment was only announced today, The Australian reported that Young had handpicked her about a month ago to replace him.

For more:
- see the construction release
- and McKenna's appointment release
- The Australian has this article

Related articles:
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NBN Co. ramps up Australia broadband network buildout
NBN Co. to add IPv6 support for Layer 3 protocols
NBN Co. lights up final "First Release" site in Willunga, South Australia