Wholesale network operator Nextgen Networks has rolled out 400 kilometres of backhaul under the Federal Government's regional blackspots program, according to managing director, Phil Sykes.
Conroy's regional fibre plan
"We're ahead of schedule — 400 kilometres have been completed," Sykes told ZDNet.com.au. "The target for the first month was 300 kilometres," he said, adding that it should soon be rolling out between 700 and 800 kilometres per month.
Currently Nextgen and fellow Leighton subsidiary Vision Stream have two crews working from Mt Isa, Queensland; Nextgen kicked off its big dig in the town in February, heading north west to Darwin, and south east to Toowoomba. The link is expected to reach 160,000 people.
Another trenching crew is believed to have started work in South Australia, about which Nextgen is expected to reveal details in April. The blackspots program targets the Victor Habour region of South Australia, south west of Adelaide.
In total, the $250 million project will provide mobile, internet and phone network operators access to 395,000 regional Australians. It is expected to drive down the cost of backhaul to historically stranded regions of the country. The network will be operated under contract by Nextgen for five years, with active network provider for the project, Alcatel-Lucent, to provide network management support from Nextgen's global network operations centre in Sydney.
Two issues that Nextgen still needed to clarify with retail service providers are details around interconnect and co-location arrangements, said Sykes.
Telstra's exchanges and its copper access network in backhaul blackspot target towns will still be vital until NBN Co reaches towns with its fibre access network, however, it's unclear whether NBN Co's network will be rolled out in all towns passed by the blackspot program.
iiNet has wanted to install its own ADSL equipment at Telstra's Geraldton exchange in Western Australia but the cost of purchasing Telstra's backhaul to reach the town has meant that iiNet continues to buy wholesale carriage from Telstra to service the area.
Once Nextgen has delivered the fibre backhaul link to Geraldton, expected by March 2011, iiNet would then install a Digital Subscriber Line Multiplexer (DSLAM) at Telstra's exchange, said the ISP's regulatory affairs manager, Steve Dalby.
"We'd still use a DSLAM in Telstra's exchange, but use Nextgen for backhaul," he said.
Sykes said that by March 2011, it should have also completed Victor Harbor link in South Australia, and South West Gippsland in Victoria.
The project is expected to be complete and active by September 2011.