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Alarm Bells? Just 6,400 NBN Connections

Just 3295 connections to the $37 billion National Broadband Network were made since August last.

NBN Co is aiming to have a total of 54,300 by year end, so would want to hurry up, if it wants to meet its ambitious annual target, it seems.

The startlingly low figures were revealed by Jim Hassell, NBN Co’s Head of Product Development, at a Senate Estimates hearing on the mammoth fibre broadband project, yesterday.

However, the figures were better for NBN’s satellite connections – hitting 17,000, with a total of around 25,000 premises hooked up the NBN network, so far.

“Just under 6400 are fibre, just under 600 are fixed wireless and just over 17,000 are for satellite,” Hassell told the hearing.

But Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is adamant NBN Co will meet its ambitious connection targets, despite delays and construction roll out issues that has plagued the broadband company.

Conroy even managed to get a dig at political rival, Shadow Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a vocal critic of the NBN project, during questions put to him by the hearing.

“We’re going to hit the 758,000 target, so get used to it – we’re going to hit it – and we will not have failed as [shadow broadband minister] Malcolm Turnbull and your side of politics claim. Get used to it.”

But even if the NBN’s seemingly low connection rates set off alarm bells in some quarters, Minister Conroy moved to confirm that “digital [IP] alarms will be supported on the NBN” after concern was raised by¬† Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, yesterday.

But of the take up of high speed broadband services, there has also been some surprises.

Close to half of all subscribers (44%) have taken up the highest speeds of 100/40Mbps, a trend highlighted by NBN Co earlier this year.

NBN Co had previously forecast take up of lower- tier broadband speeds would be greater than more expensive high-tier services.

The committee is examining ongoing regulatory issues such as the NBN Co Special Access Undertaking and Wholesale Broadband Agreement and is also probing Telstra’s workforce issues.

Under Telstra’s Retraining Funding Deed, the government has committed to providing $100 million to the Telstra Corporation to assist it in the retraining and redeployment of Telstra employees affected by the NBN rollout.