NBN BUZZ: All eyes on the rollout roadmap

The impending release of the three-year rollout schedule could be the next flashpoint in the NBN debate and why Telstra won't try to save the network if and when the Coalition comes to power.

NBN Buzz is a weekly wrap up of everything that's going on with Australia's largest infrastructure project. For previous editions and the latest news visit our NBN Buzz page.

Ready for the rollout 

It was relatively quiet on the NBN front this week. Between the leadership drama in Canberra and the completion of the momentous deal with Telstra, NBN Co is probably happy with the breather. It will be especially handy given that the major three-year rollout roadmap is due out later this month.

The release of the rollout plan will no doubt be the next flashpoint for both the supporters and critics of the NBN. NBN Co released a 12-month rollout plan in October last year and it copped a fair bit of heat from both sides of the parliament. The Victorian government bemoaned the lack of Victorian sites in the schedule. Liberal MP for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher chided  that the selection of sites was politically motivated, while Federal Labor backbencher Ed Husic took NBN Co to task for failing to give outer western Sydney suburbs a fair go. While the three-year rollout schedule will be far more comprehensive it’s quite likely to provoke the aforementioned brand of criticism.

The real headache for NBN Co boss Mike Quigley is that the rollout is well behind schedule and it isn’t just because of the lengthy structural separation of Telstra. Speaking at the IBM Business Analytics Forum 2012 in Melbourne yesterday the senior manager of the IBM Research and Development – Australia lab, Dr. Jürg von Känel, said that one of the problems is that the database of where the relevant Telstra infrastructure – cables, switches etc – is located is 80 per cent wrong, and NBN Co is relying on this database in their rollout plans.

“They may have records of where the copper is buried but that may not be where it is because the streets have changes and no one has updated the databases,” he said     

Dr von Känel uses this as an example of how uncertain data can cause problems for organisations but it also illustrates the sort of technical hurdles NBN Co is tackling in the rollout process.

The one clear message from the news flow this week has been that those already connected to the network like what they see and those who are missing out want to know when they are going to get connected. Most businesses, big and small, are getting ready for the NBN and in many cases looking forward to the benefits the network will bring.

Tired political jousting

The expectant mood of the public is in direct contrast to the little coming out of the politicians on the NBN and its future. A recent report in ZDNet highlighted that the election battle in Queensland between the Bligh government and the Liberal National Party (LNP) coalition may have all the requisite verbal fisticuffs but there is scant mention of the NBN and just what plans any of them have with regards to the network. Truth be told, the political jousting on the NBN has become rather tired with both parties running short of ammunition. The Coalition will remain tight-lipped about its alternatives until the election gets closer, while the federal government will continue to extol the virtues of the network to the public.  

Telstra’s strong copper hand

Speaking of politics, one would assume that if Telstra was asked who they would be barracking for in the upcoming election they would go with Labor. However, it’s just as likely that the telco isn’t really interested in who wins the throne in Canberra because it’s going to get paid no matter what the outcome.  As Fairfax’s Malcolm Maiden points out, Telstra isn’t likely to try to save the NBN if and when the Coalition comes to power.

Any broadband initiative that Malcolm Turnbull has up his sleeve will not come to fruition without the help of Telstra and its copper network.  The telco stands to pocket a substantial amount of cash as the network is decommissioned but the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node alternative will require Turnbull to acquire that final copper link between the node and the premise. Those negotiations will be lengthy and with Telstra still holding on to the copper it will come into the talks with a very strong hand.

Automatic activation

Finally, iTnews’ Brett Winterford reports that NBN Co and local internet service providers (ISP) are set to spend the weekend testing an integration system that will allow them to automate the provision of NBN services to their customers.

According to the report, the system is being tested will eventually replace current systems. This will require service providers connecting with the NBN to manually determine what NBN services are available to a particular premise.  

The automation is expected to save time and there are also plans to introduce automated diagnostics and real-time fault reporting systems.


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