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NBN Co works towards simplified roll-out

The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) is working to simplify roll-outs both to premises and multi-dwelling units, with the aim of having a "single truck roll" for installation.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) is working to simplify roll-outs both to premises and multi-dwelling units, with the aim of having a "single truck roll" for installation.

The ideal, according to NBN Co's general manager of operational support systems, John King, would be for NBN Co to be "almost invisible" to the end user, with retail service providers (RSPs) being the first point of contact.

"From the end user's perspective, if they only need to be home once, then that's a better user experience."

King told an NBN forum in Sydney today that the organisation charged with the roll-out of the fibre network is working with RSPs to get to a "one trip" scenario for the installation of NBN services. He said that this could be done through a number of ways, such as the RSP bearing some of the work that NBN Co would normally do, or NBN Co using common contractors that could do the work required of both parties.

With 37 per cent of the roll-out expected to be non-commercial multi-dwelling units (MDUs) such as apartment blocks and townhouses, NBN Co is also working with body corporates on developing standard processes to ensure that entire buildings can be equipped with fibre, King said.

NBN Co's process, when it comes to rolling out to an MDU, is to do a "walkout" and meet with the body corporate, develop a design and get body corporate approval to go ahead with installation.

This had been simple enough for high rises, according to King, where every floor had the same basic layout, but he said that "garden units", such as townhouses, presented more problems for the company.

"You may have two garden units that look very similar to each other, but you might have one with a living room in the front, and one with the living room in the back, so you need a very different wiring solution to be able to support that," he said.

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley said today that the NBN connection into premises would generally be in the same location as a premises' existing connection, free of charge, but said that NBN Co would charge extra should the owner want the connection in a different location.

Some single unit blocks may be adequately served by a single fibre to the basement of the building, according to Quigley, but he said that NBN Co would look to put fibre distribution hubs into apartment blocks with many units, effectively making the block its own fibre distribution area.

"If it is a very large block of units — lots of apartments — we would probably put a fibre distribution hubs ... in the basement of the multi-dwelling unit," he said.

NBN Co aims to have all the work in a MDU completed by the time NBN Co is ready to declare the entire Fibre Serving Area as being "ready for service", when RSPs come in and start activating NBN services.

Dealing with obstructionist body corporates has been an issue with NBN Co in the past, yet Quigley said that NBN Co would attempt to gain consent from body corporates several times before declaring that MDU as being "frustrated".

King said he thought that many more body corporates would come on-board as the Telstra copper access network is decommissioned, but admitted that there would be some who would always hold out.

"We're not going to try and force them. It's up to [the] residents to live with that."

As with other aspects of the roll-out, King said that consultation with body corporates was key to getting them on-board.

"The key to MDUs is the communication in the communities, the body corporates and coming up with the standards and qualities that make sense."

Transit network ramps up

As NBN Co works on easing up installation of fibre services to the home, it is also working on speeding up the roll-out of its transit backhaul network. Quigley said that NBN Co had finalised the first release of the transit network, which will comprise 149 links across 156 fibre access nodes that will reach out to 30 points of interconnect (PoIs).

Quigley said that NBN Co had to speed up work on the transit network in order to reach all of the new housing developments across the country that NBN Co had taken on-board. It also has to be finished before the completion of the fixed-wireless component of the NBN roll-out to regional and rural areas of Australia, to be completed by 2015.

Thanks to the $11 billion deal with Telstra, much of this construction work won't be noticeable, Quigley said.

"We are trying to largely use Telstra ducts and dark fibre [so] a lot of this construction won't be visible," he said. "It's work that's going on in exchanges underground using that dark fibre."

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