NBN back on track: Quigley

Three year rollout plan to be delivered to government along with business case

Safety and closer collaboration with industry have been keyed as high priorities on NBN Co’s list as the company gears up to deliver more than $2 billion in proposals and contracts by the end of the year.

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Speaking at his first public appearance since the election at the CommsDay Summit in Melbourne this week, NBN Co chief, Mike Quigely, told industry professionals the network wholesaler was in the process of awarding contracts and requests for tender put on hiatus during the caretaker period leading up to the election. Among those are operations and billing support systems, optical transmission equipment and passive hardware - include fibre cabling and accessories - that alone could be worth $2 billion.

Requests for proposal for the fixed wireless and satellite portions of the network are also set to go to marked this year.

The internal operating systems are expected to be in place and ready for trials in early 2011, Quigley said, but some difficulties remained.

“Getting the OSS (Operatons Systems Support) and BSS (Billing Systems Support) right is very important,” he said. “It is very important for the customers who will connect to this network so they can have all the facilities they need to manager their end-users on the platform we will be providing.”

While Quigley said he “would have loved” to implement an existing OSS/BSS system for the network, the final NBN systems would have to be tailored specifically to the unique network.

Yet the clarification is likely to come as a cause for relief for Optus, which remained hesitant to sign any final deals with NBN Co until such information was released and certain.

NBN Co is set to deliver its business plan to the Federal Government by the end of the month, which will include a three-year rollout plan for approval by its key stakeholder. While communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has vowed to keep the plan confidential, key aspects such as the rollout timeline and some costings will be made publicly accessible sometime in November.

However, the Labor party’s agreement with the independent MPs, which guaranteed regional prioritisation for NBN rollout locations, does not appear to have affected at least the first two sets of mainland release sites, which remain as initially announced. Quigley said the 19 sites were “quite a good mixture” of regional and urban areas for the first fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) rollouts but affirmed any future rollout locations would be ultimately subject to approval from government.

Industry consultation is expected to increase as well, with Quigley indicating the release of connection protocol papers and a Wholesale Broadband Agreement designed to allow for feedback on various aspects of the network to reduce potential discrimination of retail servicie providers (RSPs).

Safety, a cause for concern following incidents during the Tasmanian pre-release trial earlier this year, was being settled through a proactive reporting system and internal culture with NBN Co that ensured any further incidents were reported and dealt with.

“Those systems are building up, they’re working very well and we will continue that focus on safety every one of our weekly management meetings we start talking about safety, every one of our board meetings we begin by talking about safety,” he said. “One thing I’ve learnt in being the previous board on a safety committee, how important it is to get a proactive reporting.

“We are testing exhaustively all of our safety systems.”

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James Hutchinson

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