Construction of the mainland trial sites for the National Broadband Network (NBN) is set to begin next month, communications minister, Stephen Conroy, revealed in the Senate this week.
As part of the acceleration toward the national roll-out of the NBN, wholesaler NBN Co will deliver proposed services of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream to a total of 12,316 households in the five trial sites on the Australian mainland. These comprise Brunswick in Melbourne, Townsville in Queensland, Willunga in South Australia, and two sites in NSW: Armidale and premises in the neighbouring Minnamurra and Kiama areas.
The first live NBN services will become active from next month at Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point in Tasmania, with Internode, iiNet and iPrimus all offering tiered speeds of between 25Mbps and 100Mbps.
Conroy revealed that construction would begin on the sites in July while answering questions from the Opposition surrounding purported inaction by the Federal Government on the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network.
"On the question of all talk and no action, let's be very clear about this: 6,000 km of backhaul are being constructed across Australia right now," Conroy said. "Tasmania's first real customers signed up will go live in just two or three weeks. Real customers with a real network that's being built in the ground today."
NBN Co chief executive officer, Mike Quigley, confirmed the construction timeframe on ABC's Inside Business on 27 June, with Townsville likely to be the first stop.
"We are starting in fact next month to build what we are calling our first release sites which is really the first of the complete national build using all of the architecture and the product structures and the concepts we have developed," he told program presenter, Alan Kohler. "Over the period of the coming months we'll be lighting up the fibre doing all the testing and in the second quarter we'll be turning on a number of customers with a number of retail service providers and then scaling up during the second half of next year."
NBN Co also issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) from 21 of the 45 Australian companies who submitted proposals to the company's Request for Capability Statement (RCS) on the design and construction of the mainland trial sites in March.
The request for tender notably highlights the "maintaining of safe work environments" as a core value of the shortlisted company, likely due to injuries sustained by some construction workers in the rollout of the NBN in Tasmania.
Telstra, one of the companies on the NBN Co's request for tender list, has already expressed interest in tendering construction services to the NBN, and may provide up to 200,000km of route inter-exchange and inter-capital fibre as part of the network.
The companies asked to tender for design and construction of the mainland trial sites are:
- Baulderstone Pty Ltd
- Bovis Lend Lease
- Communications & Fibre
- Connect X (AbiGroup/UGL Joint Venture)
- Downer EDI
- Ergon Energy
- ETSA Utilities
- Jemena Asset Management
- John Holland/Bilfinger Berger Services
- Laing O’Rourke
- McConnell Dowell
- Monadelphous Inabensa Joint Venture
- Powercor Network Services
- Service Stream
- SP AusNet
- Transfield Services
- Visionstream Australia
- Western Power