In a recent hearing with the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow and COO Greg Adcock have revealed details about NBN Co’s plans for infrastructure-based competition with TPG, who is expanding its own fibre network.

They confirmed that NBN Co intends to begin the race to connect apartment buildings by using fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology (as opposed to the fibre-to-the-building technology being used by TPG and trialled by NBN Co) until their own FTTB product is ready.

Mr Morrow told the committee:

“We felt it was in the interest of the taxpayers and in the interest of NBN Co to offer a competitive response [to TPG’s plan]. We have outlined which areas we will do that in and we have said that we will do it by the end of the financial year. The only product that we have available today is fibre-to-the-premise and that will be the product which we are offering.”

When asked when the FTTB product was likely to be ready Mr Adcock said:

“My understanding at the moment is, pending a successful trial which is looking positive, the current view is October this year. Can I say again, because I know that we get requoted, that is the current view. That view could change: it could come forward; it could go back.”

The NBN Co CEO and COO clarified that while they are bringing forward their rollout to potentially profitable apartment buildings, they are not necessarily basing the selected locations on where TPG next plans to begin construction.

Recent staff changes, technology trials and negotiations with contractors were also discussed during the hearing.

“The evolution to the next phase of NBN Co has meant that some senior executives will be leaving the company,” said Mr Morrow. “Kevin Brown, Robin Payne and Gary McLaren have each made significant contributions in completing the initial phase of the company, and we would have not gotten this far without them.

“On a separate matter, NBN Co and Visionstream have agreed on commercial arrangements for the NBN Co rollout in Tasmania, which is in turn leading to progress in this important state.

“We are also making arrangements with Aurora Energy to trial an aerial rollout of NBN optic fibre cables from power poles. The trial will aid us in doing a proper cost comparison with the underground fibre-to-the-premises and fibre-to-the-node type approaches.

“We also have multiple trials underway in Victoria and New South Wales, where we are evaluating the alternative technologies to support our rollout. We have a fibre-to-the-basement pilot in Melbourne, where a number of RSPs will be trialling the NBN in order to gauge the consumer experience. The first end users have already been connected.

“Similarly, our engineers set up our first fibre to the node in Umina, just outside Woy Woy, and conducted the first test service at the premises. It was activated over a distance of about 150 metres from the pillar to the building, and delivered raw download speeds of 105 megabits per second.”

A detailed overview of FTTB and infrastructure-based competition is available online and in the print and digital May 2014 editions of Utility.

Michelle Goldsmith

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