Brisbane commits to fibre to the sewer

Brisbane commits to fibre to the sewer

Summary: Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has today announced that he will go ahead with his plan to put fibre through the city's sewer network to give 100Mbps speeds to residents within four years.


Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has today announced that he will go ahead with his plan to put fibre through the city's sewer network to give 100Mbps speeds to residents within four years.


(Sewer outlet image by Kate Boicourt | IAN, CC2.0)

Following the recent successful trial of the technology in Brisbane's sewerage system by i3 Asia Pacific, Newman said the company would begin rolling out the fibre network early in 2011.

"I think this is one of the biggest infrastructure developments in Brisbane's history and will enable us to meet our goal of becoming a new world city," the Liberal National Party lord mayor said in a statement. "Putting the fibre optics through the waste-water pipe network means Brisbane residents can get super-fast broadband without unsightly cables hanging from their power poles or trenches dug along their streets."

Newman said that i3 would become the wholesale owner of the network and would provide access to telecommunications retailers to sell to customers.

Newman said that the Federal Government's $43 billion National Broadband Network may take years to roll out to Brisbane and that he was not prepared to wait.

"The i3 Asia Pacific proposal involves no cost to ratepayers and can happen now, whereas the NBN program has no firm timetable for a roll-out across Brisbane," Newman said.

"I support everyone getting access to high-quality internet; however, the NBN has not put the needs of Brisbane on as high a priority as we would like and we didn't want local residents and businesses to be left behind in the 20th century."

In a clear attack on the Tasmanian Government's recent move to make the NBN service opt-out in its state, Newman said it was up to Brisbane residents to determine if they wanted to sign on.

"This is a voluntary scheme, there will be no opt-out deals or compulsion to force people onto this scheme," he said.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he looked forward to seeing more details on the proposal, and highlighted that, just like the NBN, the lord mayor's plan was going ahead without a cost-benefit analysis.

"We note this proposal has not been subject to a cost-benefit analysis or a detailed implementation study," Conroy said in a statement. "[Newman's] proposal clearly disputes [Shadow Communications Minister] Malcolm Turnbull's claims that people living in cities already have adequate broadband."

"The National Broadband Network (NBN) will provide a genuine, wholesale-only open access network which will maximise the benefits of competition for consumers," the minister added. "The NBN will deliver affordable high-speed broadband for all Australians, not just those in metropolitan areas."

Topics: Broadband, Emerging Tech, Government, Government AU, NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • If the i3 Asia Pacific proposal involves no cost to ratepayers, why would the lord mayor bother with a cost-benefit analysis dear boy?
    Vasso Massonic
  • Because a CBA is the be all and end all of everything on earth and beyond, as we humanly know it, isn't it?

    Well it is in relation to the NBN, according to your mate Mal and his endless procession of mindless puppets...!

    Hmmm, curious.
  • @ Vasso, Surely you and the Lord Mayor have heard the saying, "There are no free lunches", if you do not believe it, you are a.....
    Mark S-8ff5e
  • There will have been a cost benefit analysis, it would have been part of a full Business Case for funding. Not that the Cowboy would know of such a thing, with him having zero business experience.

    This new network is great to see. With Optus and Telstra having HFC in areas of Brisbane, they will be spoilt for choice... unless of course NBN get the opposition networks removed (ie purchased by the taxpayer) to improve NBN's probable fragile revenues.
  • Sounds like an idea put forward by people with no knowledge of sewers. What about roots? What happens when you put a sewer router down your sewerage pipes to clear our a root blockage? Would make a bit of a mess of a fiber optic cable I would think!
    This really is a very stupid idea put up by people with no idea.
  • I think it is down trunk sewers... a little larger than residential sewer pipes.

    I understand the method is common in the UK.
  • Well entry to the premise will be easy, just that we may need to install our computers in the bathroom
    Blank Look
  • Sorry, but this story makes no sense politically what-so-ever..

    On one hand, you have possibly the highest elected Liberal at the moment, being Newman, stating how desperately Brisbane requires a ‘high-speed’ broadband network.. While on the other hand you have Federal Liberal spouting that our ‘internet is good enough’ and how we don’t need the NBN (rather poorly at this moment of time I feel)

    Is Newman here trying to make some political point here? Is he trying to pressure Conroy? It just does not make sense. What is the motive of this?

    I live in Brisbane, in fact, I was in the small foot print of the inner north that was planned to get the NBN in phase 2.. Thou with the changing of seats of our local MP from Labor to Liberal, I am not sure this will still go ahead as panned schedule with the ‘reshuffle’ gets released.

    I then have to ask the question of how this with work with the NBN? Is it going to be legislated like the NBN? Are we going to have access to the same prices and competition as the NBN with the ISP’s and service providers? If Newman goes ahead with this, are we even going to get access to the NBN? Whilst I do not agree with most of what Conroy says, I do echo him in saying I would like to see more detail on this first.
    Jon James
  • Nobody said it was free. Rather, the installation is costless to the ratepayers, being paid for by the commercial company. Naturally, same company will charge for the use of the facility, and expect a profit.

    Still, sewer broadband can be cheaper to build than that coming from the Telstra nodes. Sewers being much closer to homes, there is less digging up of roads and nature strips. The company also claim that they have ways of avoiding trenching altogether.
  • I'm a little concerned about the fibre-through-the-sewers plan. Essentially it will be a broadband network operating in competition to the NBN and I'm not sure that's a good thing or should even be allowed.

    The business model of the NBN is a cross-subsidy one where a uniform wholesale access price is achieved by levereging the profits from the densely populated cities to support the regional areas. Competing networks in the cities will negatively impact the NBN requiring raising prices to compensate and defeating the purpose of the NBN.

    NBN detractors may point to this as why the NBN is a mistake - that the cities are ripe for private enterprise to rollout broadband networks and once they do the NBN won't be able to compete if they are restricted to a uniform wholesale access price. They advocate instead to encourage the private enterprise city roll-outs and offer subsidies to support regional broadband. However I think this is a mistake for the following reasons:

    The NBN has the admirable goals of
    1. Addressing a historic lack of investment in commications infrastructure and services in regional australia and breaking down the digital divide between regional and metropolitan Australia.
    2. Upgrading the aging copper network to a fibre one suitable for supporting Australia's data/communication needs for the next 40-50 years e.g. mass media distribution, e-health, e-commerce, e-learning and as yet undeveloped applications.
    3. Addressing the vertical integration of Telstra and the anti-competitive environment that resulted from a retail service provider owning and operating the network that other retailers had to lease from them.
    4. Providing ubiquitous broadband connectivity to all Australian households via a single platform to promote innovation and widespread adoption of broadband services such as mass media distribution, e-health, etc.

    Opening the physical network market to competition seems like it would be repeating the mistakes of the past and would actually work against achieving the stated objectives.

    Firstly, it is only cost effective for private enterprise to roll out fibre in the metro areas. Thus, it doesn't address regional Australia's infrastructure problems. The government could subsidise regional infrastructure however it seems this would be inefficient and ineffective. It would be a continual drain on the public purse (in contrast with the NBN supporting maintenance and operation expenses from its national revenue streams) and, if we consider the realities of other similar subsidised industries eg. the Melbourne rail network, also likely to be plagued by poor service and maintenance and increasing costs to the customers as the private operator tries to preserve their profit margin.

    Secondly, if multiple networks are in operation then inevitably the network serving Australia as a whole will be an ad hoc patchwork of different technologies, provisioned differently and requiring additional provisioning to communicate with each other. This is in contrast to the NBN which will have centralised planning and a greater degree of commonality in provisioning. From the perspective of launching new applications it seems to me that a single centrally planned network like the NBN is more attractive than a patchwork of multiple networks.

    Thirdly, it seems to me that private enterprise building networks in metro areas now would be somewhat profiteering. The NBN rollout and debate has brought broadband into public prominence in Australia. Presumably that will carryover into increased broadband uptake in the coming years. Private companies entering the space now will be taking advantage of that and trying to take a cut of the metro market without taking on any of the burden of the regional market. Since the NBN is aiming to offer a single wholesale price it maybe unable to compete effectively against these players and its business model could be destabilised. The NBN is a national interest project to provide Australia with quality infrastructure to support our future ICT needs and hopefully be a platform for exporting ICT technology and services. Also to improve our way of life. Although I'm wary of protectionism it is in the national interest to give the NBN every chance to succeed, especially considering the price tag, and it may be that the government should, in this instance, intervene and prevent other new players from setting up in competition.

    Also the Liberal Lord Mayor's comments seemed to indicate a political agenda and motivation, which is disappointing.

    Thoughts? Comments?
  • I am always alert when someone uses the phrase "at no cost". What does the Brisbane Lord mayor really mean in this case? What kind business people would invest lot money not having a guaranty of getting the money back plus some serious interest?

    Fibrecity Holdings, the UK-based associate of i3 Asia-Pacific that provides the fibre optic technical know-how, has only completed a similar project in the city of Bournemouth (UK). What kind of success has that project?

    Last and not least, it always for me to see politicians happily make decisions on ICT (Information Communication Technology) matters, without having sufficient input by ICT professionals.
    Luigi from Brisbane