Tasmanian aerial NBN rollout up in the air

NBN Co has begun its trial of deploying fibre to the premises in Tasmania using Aurora Energy's powerpoles, however the company has declined to say whether the entire network in the state will be rolled out that way.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co has commenced the use of Aurora Energy's power poles to roll out fibre to the premises in Tasmania, but the company has indicated that the rollout may switch from fibre to the premises after 2014.

As part of the Tasmanian election campaign, new state premier Will Hodgman sought a trial of delivering fibre to the premises in the state using Aurora Energy's existing power poles in a move designed to cut down on the cost of the rollout without switching to other technologies, such as fibre to the node.

Earlier this week, Tasmanian Minister for IT and Innovation Michael Ferguson announced that there were 16 areas in Tasmania where fibre was being rolled out over the next eight months, including two sites in Glebe and Riverside where power poles were being used to roll out fibre to the premises with construction partner, Visionstream.

"I am very pleased to announce work is already underway at both sites to increase the aerial deployment with 107 poles being utilised at Glebe and 183 at Riverside," he said in a statement.

"This is a result of redesign work that Government-owned Aurora has performed in partnership with the contractor."

Ferguson said that NBN Co's decision to trial the use of power poles came through the Liberal government's lobbying, and showed the state government's support for the fibre-to-the-premises version of the NBN.

"This work represents early and significant progress by the Liberal Government as meaningfully helping NBN Co with the rollout in a timely and cost effective way," he said.

"It is also part of the Government's continuing effort to support the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) model."

But it is unclear whether the Tasmania will still continue to receive fibre to all premises that were set to receive it before the 2013 federal election.

When asked by Labor Senator for Tasmania Anne Urquhart about the trial, NBN Co's chief operations officer Greg Adcock said in Budget Estimates last night the trial was part of NBN Co's 'business as usual' deployment.

"We're rolling out fibre to the premises using our usual deployment methods, in Tasmania, with our delivery partner this financial year," he said.

He said that after this year, NBN Co would look towards "what a multi-technology mix will bring".

In a statement today, Urquhart said that the aerial trial appeared to be a short term experiment.

"It's clear that the 'aerial trial' looks to be a short-term cost saving measure and most households will be left with the inferior multi technology mix," Urquhart said.

Urquhart has a Private Senator's Bill before parliament that would seek to force NBN Co to complete the NBN as a fibre to the premises network in Tasmania.

"Federal Liberal Senators and Members have the opportunity to back in their election promise by supporting my Private Senator's Bill that would require NBN Co to complete the fibre to the premises rollout," Urquhart said.

The original deployment of the NBN in Tasmania had tested using Aurora's power poles, but Adcock said that a second trial was needed because the first trial happened in the early stages of the NBN rollout, when the company found it was much more expensive to deploy fibre than it is today.

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