Queensland examining fibre capacity while awaiting NBN

Lauding the uptake of alternative fixed-wireless services in areas not yet connected to the NBN, the Queensland government said it is assessing whether to provide capacity on its fibre network to consumers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Queensland government has revealed that it is currently undertaking due diligence to assess whether it can provide capacity on its own fibre optic network ahead of the limited fibre provision of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

According to the state government's submission to the to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network's rural and regional rollout inquiry, it is also encouraging the uptake of "competitive" non-NBN fixed-wireless services in areas that are not yet ready to connect to the NBN.

"While the Queensland government recognises NBN Co as the primary operator in delivering broadband digital connectivity, the Queensland government is encouraged to see independent operators stepping forward to provide improved and alternative digital connectivity technology choices to rural and regional Queensland," the submission said.

"The Queensland government has committed to undertake a due diligence assessment of the viability of providing access to spare capacity in the Queensland government's optical fibre network to improve digital connectivity for Queenslanders."

The Queensland government also used its submission to reiterate that Sky Muster satellite services should be used as a last resort, and to extend its fibre offerings beyond nodes.

"To improve the resilience, performance, and future growth capacity of the NBN, the Queensland government strongly encourages NBN Co to deploy fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) or fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) technologies instead of fibre to the node (FttN)," it said.

Queensland also said public safety agencies must be reliable during power outages, and therefore NBN should deploy FttP networks to "buildings, roadside, or other infrastructure supporting these critical services".

The state's suggestions for improving the satellite service were to offer a different service for those living within "peri-urban" beams who have access to mobile services, while upgrading the data caps, speeds, and fair use policies of those living within remote beams; installing Sky Muster dishes and modems on business buildings "in accordance with the businesses' strategic connectivity plan"; and providing remote property modems with additional ports for home and business, including up to four ports for "multi-faceted businesses".

"The Queensland government encourages NBN Co to explore opportunities to improve the services offered to existing Sky Muster customers, particularly those in remote areas operating agricultural or other businesses, and to acknowledge that a unique Sky Muster service is required for these customers," the submission says.

The Queensland government said it also wants to be involved in ensuring there is a baseline standard covering access to voice and internet services once the NBN rollout is complete, and wants to see ongoing reductions in the Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) capacity charge.

Published earlier this month, the Northern Territory government's submission argued that the "underlying issues" of providing reliable and adequate broadband services to remote areas of Australia remain.

"The Sky Muster satellite service cannot be the sole solution to serve remote Territorians' needs," the NT government's submission said.

"Both NBN Co and the Australian government need to actively and cooperatively develop responsive solutions that meet the needs of the substantial NT population who reside outside urban centres."

Similarly to Queensland, instead of waiting for better services from NBN, the NT government said it is now relying on its own AU$30 million co-investment program with Telstra to deliver mobile and fixed coverage to 17 remote communities.

The territory government said it has also been lobbying both NBN and the federal government to make use of the existing fibre-optic infrastructure in 39 NT communities "rather than the technically inferior satellite solution".

Viasat, which helped design and build NBN's satellite service, used its submission to suggest "realistic and feasible steps" for NBN to improve Sky Muster, including implementing a Layer 3 network management program.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow had previously told ZDNet that NBN is "closely" watching improvements in satellite technology and capacity, including 1Tbps satellites being built by others, as well as deploying a third satellite or moving more satellite users to the fixed-wireless network.

Meanwhile, retailer Aussie Broadband used its submission to repeat its calls for NBN to cease sales on the fixed-wireless network while congestion is addressed; and Australian Private Networks (APN) -- which trades as satellite RSP Activ8me -- focused on the lack of cohesion between NBN, RSPs, and their delivery partners to improve service calls to customers.

The NBN joint standing committee had announced in February that after completing its initial report last year, it would be holding inquiries into NBN's rollout in regional and rural Australia as well as its business case.

The joint standing committee had in September recommended that NBN connect as many premises with its FttC and FttP networks as possible, with its final report making 23 recommendations in total.

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