NBN Co amps up greenfields roll-out

NBN Co has handed out $183 million in contracts to Visionstream and Service Stream to amp up the fibre roll-out in new housing developments.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co has handed out $183 million in contracts to Visionstream and Service Stream to amp up the fibre roll-out in new housing developments.

Since NBN Co became the fibre provider of last resort for housing developments with more than 100 lots in January last year, NBN Co has been inundated with applications from housing developers seeking to get the National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre rolled out to their greenfields sites across the country. As of May this year, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley told a Budget Estimates hearing that NBN Co has received about 2500 different applications from developers, comprising 130,000 premises in total.

Fujitsu scored a 12-month contract in May last year to manage the greenfields installation for NBN Co, and in February, this contract was extended by another 12 months. Yesterday, NBN Co announced that it has signed on Visionstream and Service Stream for 19-month contracts to accelerate construction in greenfields sites across Australia.

Visionstream will be paid $102 million for design and construction in Victoria and Queensland, while Service Stream will pick up $81 million for work in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Construction will consist of not only rolling out fibre to each new lot, but also developing local fibre nodes and constructing the transit links between the new housing developments and the rest of the NBN.

Quigley said in a statement that greenfields roll-outs have thus far been managed as an end-to-end process for each site, but, now that the NBN is rolling out across the country, it makes sense to move to a state and territory management plan.

"The timing is now right to move to a different structure that gives us greater flexibility, control and potential synergies with the wider brownfields roll-out," he said.

"We have been working closely with developers to ensure they are well informed about our progress in working to meet their needs. We are pleased with the high level of support they have shown for the roll-out, particularly the way they see the NBN as a means of promoting their estates as getting ready for the technology people will need for the future."

In a Budget Estimates hearing in May, Quigley said that executing the greenfields policy has been the "most difficult aspect" of the NBN project, because it requires building out the network to new areas where NBN Co has not yet rolled out. This means that NBN Co is required to build new ducts and trenches and an average of 6 kilometres of fibre backhaul to get from the greenfields sites to the rest of the network.

"So, from every site, it is on average 6 kilometres to pick up the existing network. Obviously, in remote sites — an extreme example of which is a place like Mount Newman — these distances are much longer. Because of these new duct civil works, we have to go through associated approvals processes," he said. "The good news is that we are overcoming the problems of doing this for the first time. As we continue to build out our transit network, which I mentioned earlier, the distances we need to span reduce."

As of May, Quigley reported that there are 300 active services on the NBN in greenfields sites across Australia.

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