NBN Townsville passive rollout ready in 12 weeks

Tendered construction companies continue NBN rollout despite possibility network could be dismantled by next week

Construction of the passive infrastructure associated with the National Broadband Network (NBN) at the stage one mainland release site of Townsville will be completed in 12 weeks.

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, confirmed the timeframe today while conducting a media conference in the Queensland city.

“Just talking to the workers here today, the area we’re standing in now will be completed in 12 weeks with switch-on to follow that,” she said.

An NBN Co spokesperson confirmed the construction timeframe, clarifying that the passive infrastructure - including the distribution network and the building drops - would be completed within that period. However, the active network required to switch on the network would not be completed until early next year.

NBN Co will also approach residents with free installation of the optical network terminal (ONT) on their homes in early 2011, prior to switch on of the network.

Once switched on, residents will have access to committed broadband speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and potentially 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) peak rates on the network.

Townsville is one of five major release sites, covering 3100 premises in the suburbs of Mundingburra and Aitkenvale outside of the town centre.

A further 3,000 premises in the area will also be served as part of a second stage of rollouts planned by NBN Co, to commence early next year.

According to pamphlets released by NBN Co, the areas were chosen as a typical rollout location that would allow the wholesaler to “test and document design and construction techniques in a regional centre”.

However, Liberal Queensland senator, Ian McDonald, told NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, that the rollout would be better served in Townsville’s CBD rather than at the edge.

"It would have been nice to go to sites and asked 'where would you like us to go'," Quigly told a panel of senators at a Senate select committee on the NBN earlier this year. "But the whole exercise is aimed to pruning out the architecture and the build methods."

Rollout of the network remains on track, despite evidence that tendered contractors - including Ergon Energy in Townsville - hadn’t begun construction of the sites in July as originally planned.

The continued construction also comes despite the stark reality that the NBN might be scrapped should the Liberal party win the Federal election on 21 August. Though select NBN Co employees may retain a job under the party’s proposed National Broadband Commission, Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, has affirmed he will scrap the national network in favour of a cheaper alternative.

However, Quigley told media recently that the election issues weren’t a cause for concern inside the company.

“Both [head of corporate affairs, Kevin Brown] and myself have told the folks inside NBN Co that we need to keep focussed on what we’re doing, and that work has been ongoing,” he said. “We’re doing product specifications, doing all the thing you’d expect us to do and we are absolutely focussed on that. Clearly we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t pay attention to what was going on around us, but we have got a job to do and we’re carrying on and executing that.”

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