NBN to go live in Armidale in April

First of five mainland NBN trial sites to go live

NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, has confirmed Armidale will be the first mainland site to go live with the NBN, with the switch-on date slated for April.

Quigley told the audience at the Broadband and Beyond 2011 industry conference in Sydney that the build up to the Armidale switch-on, one of five NBN first release sites, had been a positive one.

“In Armidale, which includes a university, we have some very enthusiastic bunch of people," he said. "Some very strong local advocates."

“This is the place where we will probably make the connections to mainland customers, it is just simply the timing has worked out that way for a variety of reasons and… by the end of April we expect to have customers connected.”

Quigley said 90 per cent of the work needed to bring the five release sites up to speed had been completed, with customers at all sites expected to be connected to the NBN shortly.

He also said NBN Co had received on average a 75 per cent rate of consent from households and premises to be connected to the NBN.

The highest rate of consent was in Willunga, South Australia — some 91 per cent — and the lowest was Brunswick in Melbourne — just 50 per cent; something Quigley attributed to the high percentage of rental properties in the suburb.

“You can’t just go to the person living in the place; you have to go to the landlord and get consent,” he said.

Quigley said the release site of Townsville had been affected by the recent Cyclone Yasi, losing three out of as total of 79 fibre segments. The site also has a high percentage of aerial, rather than in-ground, fibre.

“There is always this debate about underground versus aerial fibre and it is not always clear cut,” he said. “If you are underground when a flood takes place it’s not such a good day, and when you are aerial when there are high winds it’s also not such a good day.

“The experience of Verizon, when we talk to them… is that overall there is not much difference [in overall availability]. It is likely you are going to have a failure on an aerial as you get high winds more than you do floods but the mean time for repair it is shorter.

Commenting on the second release sites, Quigley said the NBN Co was having to carry out replanning due to the federal government’s move from 14 points of interconnect (PoI) to 120, the availability of infrastructure via the impending separation of Telstra, and the obligation to connect greenfield sites of 100 premises or more.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman

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