Queensland government moves to improve NBN with state-owned fibre backhaul

FibreCo Qld will use under-utilised backhaul on its existing state-owned fibre network to connect to the NBN in regional areas of Queensland.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Queensland government has announced it is forming FibreCo Qld, which will be responsible for connecting parts of the state-owned fibre network with the National Broadband Network (NBN) across regional areas.

The network will make use of the extra capacity on 6,000km of existing fibre-optic cabling, a joint statement from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Innovation Minister Kate Jones said, and will connect over 600,000 premises.

The network will be available across Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, and Mackay.

Under the project, NBN retailers will gain access to "much better backhaul capacity at very competitive pricing", the state government said, adding that the backhaul will also be provided in some areas to smaller telcos as an NBN alternative.

"By using the government's fibre optic network, we can provide significantly greater capacity than what's currently available in regional Queensland," Palaszczuk said.

"Currently, Telstra and Optus dominate the wholesale market in regional Queensland, and this makes it harder for new players to get on the scene."

According to the joint statement, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has said regional Queensland has one of the lowest levels of competition in Australia for fixed broadband.

"For too long, regional Queensland has been getting a raw deal. The federal government's NBN has been an unmitigated failure," Jones added.

"Increasing competition in the backhaul market will lead to more internet service providers entering the regional market. This will create more competition and lead to better services for Queenslanders."

Read also: Queenslander pays AU$200k for NBN fibre

The Queensland government had in April revealed that it was undertaking due diligence to assess whether it can provide capacity on its own fibre-optic network ahead of the limited fibre provision of the federal government's NBN.

According to the state government's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN'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.

"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 submission said.

Queensland has been focused on improving broadband in its state, with the City of Gold Coast in August announcing that it would be spending AU$10 million to add a 37-kilometre loop to its fibre-optic broadband network as part of its Digital City Program.

The new loop will provide coverage to Broadbeach, Burleigh, Varsity Lakes, and Robina, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said, with the city also now investigating additional areas north and south of the city that can be connected at a later date.

Gold Coast chief innovation and economy officer Ian Hatton said the fibre network -- currently a 65km network running between Helensvale and Broadbeach that cost AU$4.5 million to deploy -- will "support accelerated deployment of 5G".

As a result of hosting the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, the Gold Coast was the first area in the nation to have a live 5G network courtesy of Telstra, as well as a trial 5G network from Optus that ran during the event.

Telstra has also launched 5G in Toowoomba.

In October, the City of Gold Coast revealed that its fibre network will consist of three loops: The Central Loop for FY19 completion; the Northern Loop, to be completed the following year; and the Southern Loop, to be completed in FY21.

The Gold Coast will also gain new Wi-Fi zones across Burleigh, Miami, and Nobbys foreshores; Waterside precinct; Cultural precinct; Nerang Admin precinct; Robina community centre; all libraries; and its Health and Knowledge Precinct.

This is in addition to its existing Wi-Fi zones in Broadwater Parklands, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, and Coolangatta.

In late August, the City of Gold Coast announced that it will also be building out an Internet of Things network covering more than 1,300 square kilometres, with plans to use the connectivity for digital water metering, waste management, and support for parks and fields.

Last month, Queensland's Sunshine Coast Council also announced that Vertiv will be building the AU$6.6 million cable landing station for the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Submarine Cable, which will connect to the Japan-Guam-Australia South submarine cable.

Vertiv won the tender to design and build the cable landing station in Maroochydore after saying it would use local contractors for the project.

The council has set aside AU$35 million in total to build out the 550km Sunshine Coast International Broadband Submarine Cable, including AU$15 million in funding from the Queensland government's Jobs and Regional Growth Fund.

According to Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson, the cable will provide the fastest broadband connection between Australia and Asia. The local council said the submarine cable project should provide 864 new jobs in the area, as well as stimulating AU$927 million in investment in Queensland.

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