Work on the Government’s $250 million Regional Backbone Blackspots program is set to commence in Mt Isa on February 17.
A spokesperson for the minister responsible, Senator Stephen Conroy, said there would be a launch event in the week of February 15 and networking integrator, Nextgen Networks, confirmed it will start work in the Queensland township after months of preparation. Nextgen won the $250m contract in December after a tendering process.
“There will be a starting event on Wednesday February 17,” Nextgen managing director, Phil Sykes, said. “We’re on an incredibly complex logistics exercise to build all these network segments all over Australia over an 18-month period so we’ve got about 200 people working on the project right now.
“The technical designs are nailed down but one of the biggest challenges is making sure the logistics around bulldozers, ploughs and cables are set. We’ll have a number of these operating at once in various parts of Australia.
“This [Mt Isa] is the very first. There’ll be others that will follow in the next three months.”
The fibre installed in Mt Isa will be the first regional building block for the National Broadband Network (NBN) in mainland Australia. American company, Corning Cable Systems, has begun laying the first NBN-related fibre in Tasmania.
According to Mt Isa City Council economic development and corporate communications officer, Liam Rigg, construction will begin on the Barkly Highway at the entrance of the town.
“They’ll be digging just out of the town and then once it reaches the city infrastructure it’ll be going through the Telstra portals. They’re already underground, so they don’t have to dig up the city streets,” he said. “It’s literally linking the whole of Australia through this new network.”