NBN Co accelerates fibre deployment in new estates

NBN Co is accelerating the deployment of fibre to new housing developments, signing two contracts worth $183 million over 19 months.

Visionstream will design, construct and commission the pit, pipe and fibre optic cable within the temporary transit fibre network in all new estates in Victoria and Queensland in a contract worth around $102 million.

Meanwhile, Service Stream will carry out fibre deployment in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory in a contract worth around $81 million.

The rollout to new estates has been accelerated to align more closely with the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout to other existing premises in Australia, according to NBN Co.

Mike Quigley, NBN Co CEO, admitted in a statement that rolling out fibre to new developments has been one of the biggest challenges for the company, with requests to cover 123,000 lots in nearly 2400 locations.

“Up until now we have contracted out the management of the end-to-end process of the rollout of fibre to new estates. This made sense at the time as we had no existing network to connect new customers to. Each application had to be designed and built individually,” he said.

“Now we have brownfields rollout work underway in every state and territory and we are working to complete the national transit network over the next three years.

“The timing is now right to move to a different structure that gives us greater flexibility, control and potential synergies with the wider brownfields rollout.”

The deployment will include developing new local networks in new housing estates, developing local fibre nodes to services and constructing major transit links between new estates and the rest of the network.

The roll out of the fibre network to new housing estates has generated some heated debate, with Malcolm Turnbull, shadow minister for communications and broadband, claiming in May this year that the decision for NBN Co to install fibre in new housing estates undermined private sector fibre providers.

He also claimed less than 1000 premises received a fibre connection in new housing developments, compared to 35,000 connections to the copper network by Telstra.

However, Stephen Conroy, minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, was quick to hit back and stated Telstra was responsible for laying copper in new estates which had received approval before 1 January, 2011, comprising 35,000 greenfield sites as an interim solution, and in developments with less than 100 premises.

“All greenfields premises will receive fibre to the home as the NBN is progressively rolled out,” Conroy said.

Visionstream and Service Stream have both previously signed contracts with NBN Co to help build the NBN.

Visionstream was involved with building the first stage of the transit network, comprising transit links connecting to fibre access nodes, including points of interconnect, in a $19 million contract.

The company also signed a four-year, $300 million construction and maintenance contract with NBN Co in March this year for the rollout in Tasmania, with Visionstream replacing existing copper lines with fibre optic cables to roll out fibre to 190,000 homes in the state.

Syntheo, a 50/50 joint venture with Service Stream and Lend Lease, also signed a $174 million design and construction contract with NBN Co to roll out fibre in Western Australia.

The joint venture partnership also won a $141 million contract in November last year to build the NBN in South Australia and the Northern Territory. If options to extend the contract are extended, the deal could be worth up to $341 million.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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