3.5m premises to get NBN by 2015

NBN Co has detailed a three-year plan to roll out the National Broadband Network (NBN) to 3.5 million premises across Australia by June 2015.

Prime minister, Julia Gillard, announced the launch of the three year plan, which pinpoints the communities across Australia which will be connected or in the process of being connected to the NBN by mid-2015.

[ In pictures: NBN 3-year roll-out plan announced ]

“We are announcing today that more than 3.5 million homes, businesses, schools and hospitals will be getting access to the NBN in the next three years," she said at a press conference in Sydney.

According to Gillard, more than one million premises in NSW will be connected, 700,000 in Victoria, 680,000 in Queensland, 430,000 in Western Australia, 330,000 in South Australia, 65,000 in the Northern Territory and over 200,000 in Tasmania.

“This three-year plan covers about one third of all the homes and businesses across our nation," she said. "It’s going to be a fundamental change to regional and suburban economies.”

“There will be direct jobs created, as the construction reaches its peak around 400 work teams employing more than 16,000 workers will be installing fibre optic cable to an average of 6000 premises per week.”

Communications Minister, senator Stephen Conroy, said the plan covered a total of 139 federal electorates out of 150 across the country, specifically, 67 Labor, 61 Coalition, and six crossbench electorates.

“Ultimately, no one will miss out but, there will be some Australians disappointed they are not included in this three year announcement," Conroy said. "Keep in mind, if elected Tony Abbott will stop the NBN rollout dead in its tracks.”

According to NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, complex engineering work was involved in the establishment of the plan, with numerous rollout guidelines, or "principles", outlined which were then formulate, or “sequenced”, into a plan using optimisation software. Locations were organised into modules which consist of between 2500 to 3000 premises.

“First we needed to complete the sites we had already announced including our second release sites and what we had announced in our 12-month plan," he said.

“We had to take instructions that the government – our shareholder – gave to us which was to get a balance between regional and metro areas and also to achieve a balance across the state of Australia and to complete Tasmania by 2015.”

Quigley said NBN Co also had to create the plan on the basis of the infrastructure available from Telstra and prioritise the growth corridors that were likely to have a high number of Greenfield sites, in line with the government’s Greenfields policy.

“We prioritised the links we needed for our wireless network and for our satellite earth stations so we can provide high speed broadband for rural Australia as fast as possible," he said.

“Having done that, we then had to ensure we load balanced for our construction contractors and adjusted the build if it was likely to cause congestion in local communities.

“Finally we ensured we supported the four universities that we have been working with who are focused on new broadband applications including James Cook, University of Queensland, New England in Armidale, Wollongong and Melbourne universities.”

Currently, construction is underway on around 250,000 premises, Quigley said, with another 500,000 scheduled to start before the end of the 2012 financial year.

Quigley also noted the roll out will be updated in 12 months time, with new locations to potentially be added to the plan then. The complete rollout of the NBN is forecast to take around 10 years, although Quigley would not comment on an exact time of completion.

The reason for not targeting all suburbs in the same areas came down to constraints, Quigley said, whether due to the links or “straight engineering”.

“Often we don’t want to do too many places in that same area concurrently because otherwise we congest the streets." he said. “We know we’re going to have some people who are disappointed but we’ll be announcing an update in 12 months time and people will be picked up eventually.”

To date, across the eight sites across Tasmania and the mainland, the take up rate is around 25 per cent, according to Quigley, and is set to increase as the copper lines are retired.

“It’ll take overall around 18 months although the CEO of Telstra has said he wants to do that faster so both companies will be working on accelerating that switching off of the copper module by module,” he said.

Shadow communication minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has criticised the plan arguing the ALP has been vague on details concerning the number of premises that would actually be able to connect to the NBN within the three year period.

“The rollout ‘plan’ does not contain a forecast of how many households and businesses will actually be able to connect to the NBN fibre by 2015,” Turnbull said in a statement. “Nor does it contain a forecast of how many households and businesses will actually be connected. Yet these are the only numbers that matter.”

“Does it mean that these premises are in a suburb where NBN has actually dug some trenches by 2015? Suburbs where it has painted a few lines on the footpath in one street? Or merely suburbs where NBN Co hopes it might be able paint a few such lines by 2015?”

“There is no indication more than a fraction of the premises claimed will be connected by 2015.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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