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Tassie NBN won't help set prices

There will be important lessons learned during the Tasmanian roll-out of the "National Broadband Network" (NBN) to 4000 households by July, but it won't be pricing or costs, according to NBN Tasmania's chief Doug Campbell.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

There will be important lessons learned during the Tasmanian roll-out of the "National Broadband Network" (NBN) to 4000 households by July, but it won't be pricing or costs, according to NBN Tasmania's chief Doug Campbell.

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Doug Campbell, head of NBN Tasmania (and Market Clarity CEO Shara Evans)
(Credit: Liam Tung/ZDNet.com.au)

"When you do 4000 premises in three small, fairly remote communities you're not going to be able to ascertain the cost of Tasmania, let alone for the mainland," Campbell told ZDNet.com.au today.

The households in Scottsdale, Midway Point and Smithton, are expected to be activated in July under "Stage 1" of the NBN in Tasmania. The state currently has three stages, the latest including a $100 million equity injection, which will extend the NBN to the state's capital, Hobart.

At present, the best estimate of costs Campbell could offer were those related to a US fibre roll-out, which put the figure at $1200 per premise with costs expected to vary according to housing density. Beyond that, costs are unknown.

But, according to Campbell, NBN Tasmania will look at underlying factors that will affect the cost of deploying the NBN, such as the cheapest means of stringing fibre onto power poles and dropping those cables into links that connect to a household.

Campbell said the company was experimenting with "factory installed network access points", which might offer it a cheaper means of connecting homes as opposed to physically "splicing" fibre.

It would also learn about preferred methods of activating customer accounts — a point of interest to internet service providers (ISPs) that will ultimately sign up to the NBN.

OptiComm, which won the deal in December to provide the network to the 4000 Tasmanian households, is playing a critical role for NBN Tasmania. Campbell confirmed that it was using OptiCommm's business and operational support systems (BSS/OSS) for those towns — no doubt a useful feature given that NBN Co currently lacks such a system.

The systems are used to manage maintenance ticketing, billing, fault detection and communicating with ISPs amongst other requirements. "OptiComm has already developed interfaces for two or three ISPs," said Campbell. NBN Co plans to get experience with that system first, identify any shortcomings, and amend it where required for its own systems.

Those ISPs — iiNet, iPrimus and Internode — were announced yesterday by Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy "="" class="c-regularLink" rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow">as part of the NBN's first working example of the network via its new Tasmanian "Test Centre". The centre is underpinned by infrastructure provided by NBN Tasmania's strategic partner, state-owned energy company, Aurora. Plans to create a joint venture with the company were put on ice last year.

The launch, according to Campbell, merely showed that traffic could be carried across the Bass Straight to Aurora's datacentre in Cambridge, just outside Hobart, which houses NBN Tasmania's "point of interconnect" (POI) or Optical Line Terminal (OLT) — the hardware that powers the NBN Co's equivalent to Telstra's copper access network, the gigabit passive optic network (GPON).

NBN Tasmania also plans to use Aurora's Cambridge POI for its Midway Point deployment. Meanwhile, Smithton and Scottsdale, which are further than 20 kilometres away from the POI, will likely be connected via a "remote access node" and will be backhaul-connected to the Cambridge POI to enable ISPs to access the suburb's households.

While NBN Co has hired Gary Searle to negotiate wholesale pricing to access these three towns, NBN chief executive Mike Quigley warned last week not to read into pricing that comes out of these deals because it would still need to negotiate pricing with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

"Pricing in Tasmania is going to be the same as everywhere else, except for stage one. That's just an initial build and we will be doing pricing, but we haven't been through the ACCC, so it has to be different. Because it is much different," said Quigley.

Campbell said NBN Co would not be revealing wholesale pricing for these towns since it was commercial in confidence.

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