Telstra fibre not enough: NBN Co

NBN Co interested in using Telstra's 6 million kilometres of fibre, but it's only a starting point for the National Broadband Network

800 fibre serving areas (FSA) will be required to serve 90% of the Australian population with fibre (Credit: NBN Co)

800 fibre serving areas (FSA) will be required to serve 90% of the Australian population with fibre (Credit: NBN Co)

Though Telstra is believed to own and operate one of the most extensive fibre networks in Australia, it isn't nearly enough for the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to the head of corporate affairs at NBN Co, Kevin Brown.

As part of the $9 billion Financial Heads of Agreement deal between Telstra and NBN Co, the government-owned wholesaler will have a right to lease or acquire portions of Telstra's fibre network as it chooses, amounting to roughly six million kilometres worth of fibre or 200,000km of route network fibre available for use before NBN Co even begins building the network.

While a large portion of Telstra's extensive network is used as inter-capital backhaul, much of its private fibre in the cities is often referred to as "dark", and used largely as a contingency plan, should the telco wish to activate a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) or similar VDSL network.

While Telstra's 200,000km of fibre assets is in the ballpark for NBN Co, Brown told Computerworld Australia that it was only the start of what the NBN would require.

"We're pretty comfortable having looked at the Telstra infrastructure, that we can use nearly everything they've offered and still need more," Brown said.

As part of its NBN mandate, NBN Co will largely build fibre from roughly 200 points of interconnect (POI) around Australia to the doorsteps of at least 90 per cent of the population, or 10 to 12 million premises. However, the company hasn't completely ruled out purchasing existing fibre within these areas from owners, providing they meet the company's network standards.

"We'll be looking at in the first instance to Telstra, but they can't provide everything we need so we're still going to be talking to other players about how we either rent, buy or lease more assets," Brown said. "The test will be cheaper in every deal and more efficient for NBN Co.”

"If someone can sell us something that meets our standards and design, we'd be interested in that. We've already talked to people about that."

Should NBN Co decide to build its own fibre in some areas, the deal signed with Telstra would still enable it to leverage an estimated 110,000 to 140,000 kilometres worth of ducts owned by the telco, significantly cutting down the amount of fibre that has to be placed overhead.

In most cases, however, it is believed Telstra's fibre will become invaluable in backhaul construction.

"It's when you get away from metro when you very quickly concentrate down to Telstra and only Telstra," telecommunications analyst, Richard Chirgwin, said.

Chirgwin said there was a possibility that, even in regional areas where Telstra is the only fibre supplier, NBN Co may choose to build its own fibre ducts due to a lower cost per kilometre relative to metropolitan areas.

Should this occur, Telstra chief financial officer, John Stanhope, said the company would be willing to tender for construction.

"Of course we have told NBN Co that we remain available to construct if they so desire... if they tender out construction we will be an interested party," Stanhope said.

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