NBN Co is racing closer to the finish line of the network being built, announcing there are now 10m homes and businesses that can connect to the network, just 1.6m short of the 2020 target.
The government-owned company announced the achievement on Wednesday, less than one year until the network is due to be completed.
The vast majority of those who can access the network are on fibre-to-the-home, fibre-to-the-node, fibre-to-the-cabinet or cable connection, making up almost 9m. The remaining million are split between fixed-wireless 4G connections, or the satellite service.
Based on the company’s construction run rate over the past few years, NBN Co looks like it could achieve the target of 11.6m homes and businesses able to connect by the middle of 2020. The number of premises able to connect went up from 7m at the end of June last year, and 5.4m the year before.
NBN Co has faced accusations from The Australian that the company is taking “shortcuts” and moving people from fixed line services to wireless in order to cut down costs and the time to complete the network, a claim NBN Co has denied.
The company did add a number of homes onto its fixed wireless network previously, however.
While construction may be on track, the key to the viability of the project remains in getting people to connect to the NBN and use it, in order to allow the company to make a return and begin to pay back the $49bn construction of the network to taxpayers.
The company met its corporate plan target of 5.5m active users as of the end of June, but the company still needs to get another two million connected users in the next year in order to stay on target. The company only added 1.5m in the last year.
In its favour is that 18 months after a home can connect to the NBN the existing line owned by Telstra is decommissioned. At that point, people need to choose whether to connect to the NBN or decide to take another service, like a wireless connection or another fixed line provider like TPG in some city apartment blocks.
A spokesperson for NBN said the company was seeing a 75% conversion rate for people connecting to the NBN once the 18-month window closes.
NBN Co revealed the majority of users are on plans of download speeds of 50 megabits-per-second or over, at 62% of all those currently using services on the NBN.