The NBN can be built at a lower cost using aerial infrastructure in Tasmania than constructing new cables underground, according to Aurora Energy, the state-owned electricity network provider.
Aurora Energy submitted a proposal to the government last November regarding an aerial network and had since been told by NBN Co that it was awaiting advice from the government on the solution.
Michael Larkin, general manager, service delivery at Aurora Energy, told the Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network in Hobart earlier this week, that, anecdotally, the company’s proposal had been “favourably received” by NBN Co.
Larkin said that installing cables for the NBN on electricity poles was ”just another cable job.”
“We string cables on poles every day of the year; fibre is no different,” he told the committee.
“We have our own fibre network that we use here that is strung aerially,” he said. “We deployed the TasCOLT network on the back of our infrastructure, totally avoiding Telstra infrastructure. That network is still in operation today.”
Larkin told the committee that there were no concerns about the current pole system to carry cable for the NBN, saying the company “deals with that through the design process.”
“The colocation of third-party infrastructure is an engineering process. It’s a process we have built into the facility access agreement with NBN Co where we design out the risks and understand how we integrate third-party infrastructure on the overhead. It is a common industry practice,” he said.
Larkin added that although it is cheaper to run fibre cables for the NBN on poles that go underground, it’s “only part of the cost structure to constructing these networks.”
“A lot of the cost structure sits outside of Aurora's span of control with NBN and there would need to be some design principle changes around deployment,” he told the committee.
Unlike NBN Co, Aurora Energy runs fibre cables from the poles straight into a customer’s home through their roof cavity.
Aurora Energy’s group manager, strategic and government, Sean Terry, said NBN Co has a choice to go aerial, do new underground builds or use existing Telstra infrastructure.
“It is really just a matter for NBN in terms of their design architecture and also their costing issues about which deployment method they want to use. The capacity to use aerial exists today,” he said.