A gated community in Queensland will be the first 'brownfield' development to roll out its own fibre to the home (FTTH) network connection.
Sanctuary Cove, south of Brisbane, will connect 1100 homes next month and a further 800 are currently under development.
An alliance between Universal Communications Group (UCG), Telcoinabox and Utilibill, has created an open access blueprint for brownfield communities, which helps set them up for the national broadband network (NBN).
The federal government has mandated that all new greenfield sites must include fibre connections by mid-2010 but, currently, community and strata-based brownfield sites have no clear path for NBN connection.
UCG general manager, Roger McArthur, said the greenfield market is large, but slow growing in terms of connecting homes to fibre. Only about 10,000 new estate sites nationally have been connected so far.
“The ‘real’ market is the brownfield sites, from retirement villages and gated communities to high rises. At some stage soon they will be forced to address how they will be connected to the NBN,” he said.
McArthur identified network ownership as a key challenge many communities face in trying to move forward with their networks. Many developers give nominated carriers exclusive licence for a fixed period, leaving residents without a choice of providers, and making it difficult to provide ongoing contracts for project construction and maintenance.
“In Sanctuary Cove’s case, they have ownership of the pipe, which means although they have Telstra copper services in there today, they do have access to that pipe and are therefore able to utilise that to put their own fibre network in the ground,” McArther said.
“Sanctuary Cove has put a lot of thought into that and we’ve worked with them to create quite an effective framework.”
Sanctuary Cove has chosen to operate as a not-for-profit, under an entity called Sanctuary Cove Communications Services, and has set wholesale access rates. The group contracts the maintenance out to a network manager.
The FTTH network gives residents access to high speed broadband, VoIP, traditional telephone — including free resident-to-resident calls, low rate external calls — video conferencing, free-to-air and pay TV and an all-in-one billing bundle.
McArthur said the Sanctuary Cove network is the first of many consortium initiatives, and the consortium intends to advise local councils and government on how to make the most of the opportunity the NBN will bring to their communities.
“We think there are some strong merits and we’ll continue to have some discussions with elements of the government who are interested in what we’re doing,” McArthur said.
“It’s a model that works extremely well with Sanctuary Cove and a model that will work with other communities who have similar requirements.”