Nextgen to unveil blackspot offer by Feb

Nextgen Networks managing director Phil Sykes this week said the company would unveil product details for its "regional blackspots backhaul" network by February.

Nextgen Networks managing director Phil Sykes this week said the company would unveil product details for its "regional blackspots backhaul" network by February.

The company responsible for delivering the Federal Government's $250 million "regional blackspots" network is yet to lay its first cable, but according to Sykes, the next step will be to brief the industry on pricing, service levels, fault detection and service activation for the new network.

Nextgen has not decided yet whether it will hold an industry briefing, but said the web would be an integral part of its communications plan. Sykes said he wanted the industry to be informed at the same time.

In preparation for the build, Nextgen recently confirmed it had extended an existing supply deal with NBN Co chief Mike Quigley's former employer, Alcatel-Lucent, for networking equipment under the deal. Other equipment it will acquire include repeater stations and UPS backup power supply systems amongst others.

While Nextgen will be able to talk product by February, Sykes told ZDNet.com.au that he will have a clearer picture of the time frame for construction and delivery to each region slated for the network by March.

The company faces a tight deadline, with the six regions covering 6000 kilometres expected by the Federal Government by mid-2011. These include Geraldton, Western Australia; Darwin, Northern Territory; Emerald and Longreach, Queensland; Broken Hill, New South Wales; Victor Harbor, South Australia; and South West Gippsland, Victoria. Conroy said the links would pass 100 regional towns.

Consumers won't necessarily see lower telecommunications costs once the network has been activated, but access seekers are expected to face lower costs in delivering services to rural and regional Australia where Telstra has a backhaul monopoly. Ovum telecoms analyst David Kennedy reckons that rather than lower prices, consumers will benefit by having access to higher quality mobile services.

Nextgen has a five-year contract to build and operate the network, after which the government has reserved the right to sell the network to another operator. It is not clear yet whether it will be sold to the NBN Co or another network operator.