news The National Broadband Network Company has confirmed that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has approved a further 150,000 premises to receive a full Fibre to the Premises network deployment, on top of the 300,000 premises where construction firms have already received deployment instructions.
In the revised Statement of Expectations which Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann issued to NBN Co in late September, the two Minister instructed NBN Co to complete construction of the NBN network to some 300,000 premises where construction had already begun using the all-fibre FTTP model favoured by the previous Labor Federal Government.
At the time, the two ministers noted that detailed network design was underway in areas containing a further 645,000 premises, and that in geographic areas where NBN Co was in a position to hand over final designs to construction partners, some of those sites may also see construction work begin “shortly”. However, the Statement of Expectations letter noted that “any further build or remediation instructions should not ordinarily be issued, pending further analysis and discussion.”
“Management of existing design work should occur so as to optimise value in the context of the Government’s policy for a flexible architecture,” the two ministers added.
Last week, in a move first reported by The Age and confirmed by NBN Co late yesterday, Turnbull’s Department of Communications wrote to NBN Co approving a further 150,000 premises for construction to commence.
“We received the go ahead from the Government to add a further 150k premises to the physical build of the FTTP network in a letter from the Department dated 25/10,” a spokesperson for NBN Co said yesterday. “The 150k are on top of the 300k where construction contracts have already been signed and the 230k premises that are currently passed by fibre.”
The move will have several impacts on the wider rollout of the NBN. Firstly, it will slightly up the percentage of Australian premises which will receive the technically superior FTTP option for NBN broadband, instead of the Coalition’s preferred alternative models such as fibre to the basement and fibre to the node.
Secondly, it may give construction firms working under NBN Co’s remit a degree of further work that may tide them over until the Coalition Government settles on the final model for the rollout of the NBN and gives orders for a new style of network rollout to commence — a decision which is expected to be fully made by mid-2014.
NBN Co is currently conducting a Strategic Review into its operations and the future model for which it will deploy fast broadband in Australia, but any change to its network rollout based on that review is not expected to fully kick in until mid-2014, potentially leaving construction firms in the lurch for new NBN construction work.
Under Labor’s NBN policy, some 93 percent of Australian premises were to have received fibre directly to the premise, delivering maximum download speeds of up to 1Gbps and maximum upload speeds of 400Mbps. The remainder of the population was to have been served by a combination of satellite and wireless broadband, delivering speeds of up to 25Mbps.
Originally, the Coalition’s policy was to have seen fibre to the premises deployed to a significantly lesser proportion of the population — 22 percent — with 71 percent covered by fibre to the node technology, where fibre is extended to neighbourhood ‘nodes’ and the remainder of the distance to premises covered by Telstra’s existing copper network. The Coalition’s policy was also continue to use the HFC cable network operated by Telstra and will also target the remaining 7 percent of premises with satellite and wireless.
However, the possibility of a different style of rollout has been raised by Turnbull in the several weeks since the Liberal MP became Communications Minister. In late September, Turnbull appeared to have drastically modified the Coalition’s policy stance on the NBN just weeks after the Federal Election, declaring the Coalition was not wedded to its fibre to the node model and was “thoroughly open-minded” about the technology to be used in the network. NBN Co is currently conducting a strategic review into its operations and model that will inform Turnbull’s decisions regarding the project’s future.
Image credit: NBN Co