Telecommunications and construction firm Nextgen Networks has finished building one of the most anticipated long-haul fibre links in the Federal Government’s flagship National Broadband Network project, with fibre between the Western Australian cities of Perth and Geraldton having been laid and the first telco customers — iiNet and NEC Nextep — signed up to use the connection.
At an event in Geraldton this morning, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the lack of competitive backbone services had particularly been a problem in Western Australia, with the state government indicating in 2007 that backbone costs were between 250 and 700 percent higher to some key regional towns than in areas where there was competition to the incumbent provider — Telstra.
“The construction of these backbone links is an immediate first step towards fixing this issue, introducing competition, as well as putting in place key infrastructure to support the National Broadband Network,” said Conroy.
The Federal Government had commissioned Nextgen to roll out the 426km backbone fibre link around around the nation as part of its $250 million Regional Backbone Broadband BlackSpots program. Around 35,000 residential and business premises will benefit directly from the link, according to Nextgen.
Nextgen managing director Phil Sykes said the link had been designed, constructed and commissioned into service on time and on budget, with the assistance of partners such as Visionstream and Ngarda Civil and Mining, a local Indigenous-owned and operated contracting company in the region.
“In connecting the Mid West with other major population centres across Australia through the high-capacity Nextgen network, we look forward to further collaboration with wholesale customers, governments and the community to ensure the region is an active participant in the NBN future,” said Sykes today.
Overall, Nextgen employed 40 people working over a six- month-period, on a 21-day roster, the company said. The company spent more than $450,000 on accommodation and close to $200,000 on meals, as well as a further $480,000 or so on local businesses through storage facilities, local couriers, vehicles, taxis, printing, traffic management and more.
Telcos NEC Nextep and iiNet immediately announced they would take advantage of the new backbone infrastructure to deliver services into Geraldton and associated areas.
Nextep — which provides wholesale broadband services — has installed DSLAM equipment in four telephone exchanges on the Geraldton route, and will supply access to several ISPs and systems integrator companies upon the launch of the fibre link. The company is also “on target” to offer ADSL2+ and SHDSL broadband to customers on other lines of the RBBP fibre being rolled out in Victor Harbour, South Australia (this month) and South-West Gippsland, Victoria (by April).
“Nextep plans to install DSLAMs in 62 locations on the network and offer wholesale broadband services making it easier for regional and national Service Providers to turn on ports in new locations supporting the Australian Government’s overall objective of having Services Providers go into regional areas to offer more value and choice to customers at competitive prices”, said Peter Neatnica, Nextep General Manager at NEC Australia.
“Customers located on longer sections of the RBBP network reaching areas like Darwin, Broken Hill, South Australia’s Riverland, Emerald and Longreach, and Victoria’s Riverina are expected to go live later in the year,” the company said.
iiNet will service the area through its Westnet brand — revealing a number of new plans for the area this morning.
“Westnet was founded here in Geraldton 17 years ago, so we’re thrilled to provide locals with access to the next generation of superfast, competitive broadband plans with award winning customer service for the first time,” said iiNet Michael Malone.
“Westnet and parent company iiNet are investing more than $5 million in high speed broadband infrastructure in regional Australia during 2011, with Geraldton securing more than 2500 new points of broadband access with a service as good as anywhere else in Australia All our Westnet and iiNet customers served by this new equipment will be able to move to our new, faster network – and because it’s our network, it offers better value and more quota than ever before.”
“We know our new service will be popular with Geraldton consumers so we have installed extra capacity to allow new customers to join up and enjoy the choice of both new plans and also the customer service for which Westnet is famous.”
Conroy and fellow Labor Senator Louise Pratt also highlighted the fact that the fibre-optic link would strength Australia’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array telescope, with the main SKA site to be located at Murchison Observatory, some 315km north-east of Geraldton.
“The CSIRO is currently constructing a fibre optic link between the Murchison Observatory and Geraldton and the new Perth to Geraldton link will provide an affordable, high capacity link that can be used to transmit large volumes of scientific data for processing,” said Pratt.