NBNco has announced the first five mainland Australian sites to trial fibre-to-the-premises broadband Internet.
Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, and NBNco CEO, Mike Quigley, told a Sydney press conference the sites were picked according to engineering specifications alone.
“NBNco has chosen the first released sites based on demographics, climate, existing infrastructure and terrain,” Conroy said. “This work will help ensure the physical rollout of the NBN is as smooth as possible.”
Selected sites include parts of Aitkenvale and Mindingburra near Townsville in Queensland, Minnamurra and Kiama Downs south of Wollongong, and West Armidale in NSW.
A part of Brunswick in Melbourne was picked as a ‘high-density’ trial site. Willunga in South Australia has been selected as the rural town example.
All sites have about 3000 connectable premises each, apart from Willunga.
Quigley was keen to point out the sites for selection were picked without any input from the Government and did not rely on submissions from companies or councils.
“The whole purpose of this is to try and exercise all the things we put together for the rollout,” he said. “That means all the types of equipment, systems, construction techniques and various partners who we’ll be ultimately using in the national rollout.
“[The process] will start in the second half of this year and as we get to the back end of this year and the beginning of next year we expect to be in the final stages.”
Conroy said a request for proposal (RFP) seeking companies to design the infrastructure for each site had been issued. A detailed design phase is expected to take several months followed by construction.
Retail service providers will then be invited to hold talks with NBNco and allowed to sell plans and bandwidth.
Quigley used the conference to attack continuing speculation over the NBN’s pricing, but ruled out providing wholesale Internet free of charge to encourage lower prices and higher participation.
"We will be pricing it at market rates to be competitive and get uptake onto the network,’ he said. “There’s been a lot of ridiculous speculation on prices from NBNco."
The microsite of the trial launch can be found here.