Nextgen reaches halfway in Regional Backbone Blackspots Program

Nextgen has to date rolled out 3000 kilomatres of backbone transmission points

Nextgen Networks has announced it is halfway to completing its 6000 kilometre of rollout backbone transmission points as a part of the Australian Government’s $250 million Regional Backbone Blackspots Program (RBBP).

The company won the contract for the project back in December 2009 following a competitive tendering process for the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy’s RBBP commitment.

Nextgen managing director, Phil Sykes, said the construction of the network began on 4 February this year despite the contract negotiation process which was not scheduled to be complete until March 2010.

According to Sykes, during the last nine months the company has completed a network design, established a procurement program, obtained land and clearance and a workforce of approximately 1000.

Shorter routes, including to Geraldton in Western Australia, Victor Harbor in South Australia and South West Gippsland in Victoria, are estimated for completion and commission by March 2011. While the longer routes comprising Emerald and Longreach in Queensland, Darwin, Broken Hill, Riverland in South Australia and the Riverina in Victoria are expected to be completed in September next year.

“These network assets represent critical building blocks to Australia’s emerging National Broadband Network,” Sykes said in a statement. “This will provide the wholesale market with competitive, low cost, high speed backhaul capability to deliver exciting new broadband and content to 60 regional towns.”

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the construction of the fibre optic backbone links are the first building blocks of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

“The lack of competitive backbone infrastructure is one of the biggest obstacles for fast affordable broadband in regional areas,” Conroy said in a statement. “Once this Program is complete, other broadband providers will be able to enter the market and offer faster broadband speeds, cheaper prices and more choice for people and businesses across regional Australia.”

According to Conroy, the program will connect approximately 100 regional locations and benefit about 400,000 people across six states and territories.

As reported by <i>Computerworld Australia</i>, Nextgen is currently working on a 990km fibre link between Darwin and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, as part of the1473 kilometre link the company is building from Darwin to Brisbane to provide competitive backhaul for Internet service providers in Darwin, where often Telstra is the only option.

The Western Australian Government also recently committed a total of $120 million to eliminating mobile phone blackspots and overhauling emergency communications networks.

The project will include $40 million spent over four years to build and upgrade communication towers throughout the state in an effort to extend mobile coverage in remote regions such as the Pilbara, Mid-West, Gascoyne, Kimberley and Wheatbelt. The Goldfields-Esperance, Great Southern, Peel and South-West regions will also gain extended mobile reception as a result of the implementation.

Sykes recently claimed that the full NBN rollout could be completed for “significantly” less than the initial $43 billion cost proposed by communications minister, Stephen Conroy and the Labor government.

“It's not going to cost $43 billion. The engineering and design capability of this country will bring it in much under that, I can guarantee you,” Sykes said at the time. “The technical capability to get the fibre in the ground in this country is really strong.

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