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Render taking Australian fibre know-how to the States

Optimising workflows and removing paper has allowed Render to speed up municipal fibre deployments in the US.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Ross Kummer, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Despite Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) turning its back on a mostly all-fibre network long ago, one Australian company has been able to take the knowledge from that time to the world.

Co-founded by former NBN head of construction Dan Flemming alongside Biarri Networks co-founder Joe Forbes, Render Networks is now involved in the rollout of 3,000 miles of fibre in Arkansas, as well as passing over 105,000 homes in Springfield, Missouri.

Speaking to ZDNet on Tuesday, CEO Sam Pratt said the company was getting some wins on the board with municipal rollouts, and helping existing infrastructure operators overlay fibre.

"These companies, they usually are doing this the first time, especially here in the United States, where it's a very disparate market. So there's no NBN Co here in the US. There's literally hundreds, if not thousands of private operators that are using a mix of public and private funding to build much smaller projects all over the country," Pratt said. "And they are generally Greenfield projects, so they're doing this the first time."

What Render brings is an ability to digitise the construction process and remove a need to rely on paper, thereby lowering the number of physical inspections and audits required due to information being sent back from the field.

"Sometimes people don't believe us when we put it out there. But just by removing the low hanging fruit from the distributed infrastructure rollouts, you're able to almost go twice as fast and then about a 20 to 30% cost saving is what we're seeing in terms of the benefit of going faster, and also less wastage, less material shrinkage, because resources all of a sudden understand that they're much more accountable than they have been with fluid past projects," he said.

"So miraculously fibre doesn't go missing."

During 2014, Render Networks was tapped for use in the infamous Melton trial, with the government-owned broadband wholesaler afterwards labelling the technology "horrendously expensive", before having to back away from those remarks and stating it had reached most of its goals.

Although not picked up by NBN, Render continued doing business with NBN delivery partners, as well as being used on the UFB in New Zealand.

"We've still got a nice little business in Australia, but simply, we need to invest in the US if we're really going to scale it and turn it into something significant, and make good on the unique approach," Pratt said.

"We're not relying on construction crews having to remember what they did ... when they get around to doing their book work at the end of the day or the end of the week. We're using today's technology, mobile technology, in the field to explain to a field crew exactly what they need to do, really simplify that field process, and then capture the data in real-time and make it available to all projects."

With the United States Federal Communications Commission recently putting $20 billion into its Universal Service Fund, Pratt said the business is in a good spot.

"We're just excited to be a small Aussie company over here, having a go ... and some technologies have certainly been grown on the back of the NBN, and Australia's leading experience on the NBN is really being picked up and utilised at scale all over the place," he said.

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