Telstra's copper could be recycled

NBN Co's Quigley keen on recycling Telstra's copper network if a deal is struck

Telstra’s extensive network of copper could be reclaimed, recycled and returned to the bottom line.

Speaking at a Senate Estimates hearing on the national broadband network, NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, said the recycling of old copper could occur if a deal was struck with Telstra (ASX:TLS) and fibre was rolled out through the incumbent’s conduits.

“There has been, as you may know, a fair amount of reclamation of copper as what are called digital line concentrators have gone out, things such as RIMs have gone out as they are fibre fed and then copper from there,” Quigley said. “When it comes to the copper that may be in the conduit we are hopeful that if we were to strike a deal with Telstra and we reuse the conduit that is carrying the copper then that potentially could be used as the lead in to pull the fibre through to that same conduit. It then gives you the opportunity to reclaim and recycle the copper.”

The comments came in response to a question by Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, who also asked whether much copper would stay in the ground as the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network is rolled out.

“If for any reason the conduit simply wasn’t available, crushed or whatever it was, then it simply doesn’t pay to try and remove that copper – it would probably just sit there,” Quigley acknowledged.

For his part, communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, added Telstra are keen to recycle copper where it can.

“The price of copper is now returning to pre-GFC levels which makes it a very valuable item,” Conroy said.

At time of writing, Bloomberg was reporting copper was trading between $US6790 a metric ton to $6805.

The NBN Implementation Study authors estimated Telstra has 100,000 to 140,000 km of underground ducts that NBN Co could potentially use to deploy its fibre. It is not clear how much copper exists in these ducts.

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