NBN chip shortage slowing internet rollout

NBN PLUG (Photo: Olivia Babb)

New homes connecting to the National Broadband Network (NBN) are facing long delays due to a shortage of Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) chips, which are required to connect the NBN to the internet in homes or businesses.

“NBN Co has been working on continuity plans to manage the impact of reduced HFC modem supplies,” an NBN spokesperson told CommsDay in December.

“In total, the shortages could impact as many as 50,000 orders across the market between January and May.”

“I just cannot understand why Australia would switch off ADSL when people are still waiting to be connected to the NBN,” said Emily Woods, 28, who recently moved to inner-city Melbourne.

Father of two Denis Dunn says his shared family mobile data is running low regularly due to the delay in his NBN connection and frustrating interactions with Telstra.

“Live chat [with Telstra] is steering me onto contracts at 12-24 months that I will have no use for,” he said. “I can’t even talk to someone, it’s an utter shambles.”

With the number of people working from home more than doubling under COVID-19 restrictions, this shortage of necessary chips is preventing some people form accessing the internet at all.

Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of employees are now doing flexible work, mostly from home. Interest rates on home loans are lower than ever with fixed rates continuing to fall after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has cheapened the cost of debt.

According to RateCity, a mortgage owner on the Homestar rate with a loan balance of $400,000 would pay $2,832 less in interest compared to the market’s average two-year fixed rate. With as many as 164 suburbs waiting to change to NBN, many residents have had to rely on phone hotspots to do their work from home.

Standard practice is that ADSL is turned off around 18 months after the NBN is installed in a suburb, despite the fact many customers are unable to access the new system.

“Due to heightened global consumer demand as a result of COVID-19, there has been increased pressure on silicon foundries,” an NBN spokesperson said, “which has in turn impacted the manufacture and supply of the integrated chips that are used across various industries, including the telecommunications industry.”

NBN Co says the NBN box belongs to the property, tenants are not to remove the box when moving. However, many new tenants and home owners have reported missing NBN boxes, causing another wait on the chip shortage so they can install a new NBN box.

NBN Co says it hopes new stocks of the HFC chip will be available by early June.

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