The Federal Government has opened a tender process seeking candidates to build, operate and maintain backbone transmission links to regional towns as part of the first steps in its $43 billion national broadband network (NBN) plan.
Locations identified in the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program as first off the rank include: Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Korumburra, Inverloch, Foster, Yarram, Victor Harbor, Broken Hill, Darwin, Geraldton, Emerald and Longreach.
Tender documents state the government will retain ownership of the fibre optic cable assets and associated passive infrastructure.
Each location (with the exception of Geraldton) is to receive a minimum of 24 optical fibres but alternative technologies, such as microwave, will be considered for small elements of the rollout.
For the first five years, tenderers will be expected to exclusively maintain and operate the backbone transmission link(s). The NBNco will then take over this role on behalf of the government but may retain the original tenderer to provide the same or equivalent services. The government is also offering the option of funding for the establishment of the new backbone transmission infrastructure. The tender closes on August 5.
“The Government is moving rapidly to deliver the National Broadband Network and will start work on high-speed infrastructure for an initial six priority regional locations,” the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said in a statement.
“This immediate action will result in new high-speed backbone links to stimulate competition and better broadband services in regional Australia.”
“It is just the beginning and the National Broadband Network will ensure high-speed broadband is also expanded to all homes, schools and workplaces across Australia.”
The plan to give the bush a head start in the NBN was first announced in April, just weeks after the government abandoned the initial tender process for a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) NBN in favour of a self-run fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) model.
In recent weeks a growing throng of ICT industry figures have pointed to the broad array of opportunities the NBN could offer to counter concerns the discourse is too focussed on fast Internet. The most recent person to add their voice was Gartner research director, Robin Simpson, who pointed to the potential of the NBN to drive the uptake of 802.11n based wireless networks.