NBN 2.0 costs more than expected

NBN has confirmed that the revised National Broadband Network rollout is likely to cost more than was previously expected.

NBN today released an updated corporate plan offering detail of the company's forecasts and operations out to FY18.

NBN's operating plan, from which the corporate plan is derived, now pegs peak funding at $46 to $56 billion, with the company's management aiming for $49 billion.

NBN is still aiming to complete the rollout by 2020.

The NBN strategic review carried out after the Coalition was elected in 2013 concluded that a 'multi-technology mix' network could be rolled out by 2020 with peak funding estimated at $41 billion.

In the wake of the review the government issued a revised statement of expectations that saw NBN shift from a rollout based solely on fibre-to-the premises (FTTP) for fixed line connections to a mix that will include fibre-to-the-building (FTTB), fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and Hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) alongside FTTP.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow said that the company's management believed a $49 billion rollout was achievable, but cautioned that the complexity and scale of the project means a range of risks must be factored into any forecast.

"Deployment of the MTM approach is at nascent state, with two critical technologies yet to be launched at scale," the corporate plan states.

"This is exacerbated by multiple variables related to execution, time, cost, and revenue associated with an infrastructure project of this scale and complexity"

The new corporate plan predicts NBN will hit the government's equity cap of $29.5 billion in FY17.

The plan projects debt funding beginning in FY17 at $100 million and growing to $9.8 billion in FY18.

"During the rollout period NBN will raise private sector debt to complement Commonwealth equity," the corporate plan states.

The company's performance in achieving major targets such as rollout progress, network takeup and cost discipline will be critical to raising external support without the explicit support of the Commonwealth.

Despite the "higher than anticipated cost and risk," the MTM strategy "remains a superior strategy to an all-FTTP rollout for fixed line areas," the document states.

An FTTP NBN would have been completed by 2026 at the earliest but potentially as late as 2028, the plan states. The peak funding range of the original NBN would be between $74 billion and $84 billion, the plan states.

The MTM network is estimated to reach first positive free cash flow in FY22, compared to between FY26 and FY31 for the original network design.

In FY18, NBN currently expects to hit annual revenue of $1.7 billion, up from $164 million in FY15. Average monthly revenue per user is expected to grow to $44 from $40 in the same period.

The corporate plan forecasts that 9.06 million premises will be able to order NBN services in FY18.

Less fibre, more HFC

NBN's corporate plan also revises the projections in the strategic review for the final mix of technologies to be used in the network.

At the end of the rollout it is forecasting 20 per cent of premises to be connected by fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), 38 per cent by fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) or fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), 34 per cent by HFC, 5 per cent by fixed wireless and 3 per cent by NBN's Long Term Satellite Service.

The strategic review had projected 24 per cent of premises being connected by FTTP, 41 per cent by FTTN and FTTB, and 28 per cent by HFC (as well as 3 per cent by wireless and 3 per cent by satellite).

In FY16 NBN is aiming to have almost a million premises with active National Broadband Network services, NBN CEO Bill Morrow said this morning.

NBN announced revenue for 12 months to 30 June of $161 million, up from $60 million.

The company's EBITDA loss increased from $1.01 billion to $1.13 billion, and operating expenses grew from $1.07 billion to $1.29 billion.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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