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NBN collapses* into chaos*

*If 'collapses' and 'chaos'= <5 per cent delay

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Australia's National Broadband Network, due for completion in 2021, has announced a three-month delay in its fibre-to-the-premises construction schedule, which if not recovered would represent a miss of a couple of percent on the project's timing.

While declining to direct blame outwards, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley told a media conference call yesterday that the delays became clear when reviewing forecasts from the project's construction partners. Rather than the 341,000 premises due to be passed by June this year (268,000 in brownfields, 55,000 in greenfields), Quigley stated that the June forecast is now that the network will pass between 155,000 and 175,000 brownfields and 35,000 to 40,000 greenfields premises by June.

Earlier this week, contractor Syntheo withdrew from the Northern Territory rollout, which will now be directly managed by NBN Co. Syntheo will now redirect its efforts to network rollout in South Australia and Western Australia.

While noting that NBN Co is still reserving its contractual rights, Quigley denied that any legal action had been launched against construction companies. Construction contracts do include commitments to meet project schedules, he said, but “in any of these big projects, you hit roadblocks.”

The rollout is “clearly not been as successful as we've hoped, because we've had to announce a delay,” Quigley said. “Mobilisation, getting up the learning curve – it's a massive project that we've undertaken here.

“It's not going too badly – but having said that, we are accountable, frustrated and disappointed – but in the decade-long project, it's a delay, but it's going to be recovered.”

Quigley said both NBN Co and its contractors will be hiring extra fibre splicers to help recover from the delay, and the contractors will be increasing their spend on equipment, manpower and technology. ®

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