The NBNco expects to start work on mainland test sites for the National Broadband Network (NBN) early in the second-half of 2010, according to its chief.
During his opening statement to the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications and the Arts, NBNco CEO, Mike Quigley, outlined plans to select several locations for initial rollout trials under a first-release initiative.
The phased approach would allow it to test different construction techniques and validate network design, he said. Work will commence early in the second half of 2010. The locations will involve suburban sites including houses and flats.
“The aim is to validate the network design and qualify the total end-to-end system,” Quigley told the Senate Committee. “We have an obligation to build a ubiquitous fibre network available to 90 per cent of the population. We therefore need to understand the challenges of different locations and prepare to use different construction and design methods in every type of geography.”
The rollout will be conducted in three stages: One, deploying passive network components such as the fibre optic cable; two, deploying active network equipment including access nodes within customer premises; and three – working with retail service providers to provide network access and test services. A request for tender will be released shortly for the design phase, Quigley said.
In Tasmania, work on the NBN is already underway and communities in Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point should get their first taste of the next-generation network by July 2010, Quigley said. The Tasmania NBN company will also open a live network testing facility near Hobart in February for service providers to test and demonstrate live services.
Quigley also outlined plans to establish a network operations centre for surveillance and management of the network, along with an integration lab to test and prove multi-vendor technical designs, and a datacentre to house business and operational support systems to manage and bill the NBN. Up to 250 staff will be employed in the facilities, he said.
The NBNco now has 112 staff and expects to recruit 300 by June. These will be based in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Recent recruits include head of construction, Patrick Flannigan, and two new directors – Clem Doherty and Terrence Francis.
“We are making significant process in all three areas as we move through the design phase and into the first release rollout,” Quigley stated to the Senate Committee. “Our first-release deployment will allow us to gain further information about the costs of different construction and deployment options to address our objective to be cost-effective.
“Our job is to build an access network that can provide a suite of wholesale products to access seekers…the design will be tested and qualified in our labs and the end-to-end solution exercised in pilot rollouts. We will then move into volume rollout of the network.”
In parallel with the design and planning process, the NBNco is developing a financial plan and a project plan in conjunction with McKinsey/KPMG, Quigley added.
Calls for suppliers have already begun, the most recent being for satellite network operators and equipment providers.