NBN Co’s challenges in cabling Australian homes

pel526 nbn revamps fixed network rollout contracts 1

Australia’s National Broadband Network Company (nbn – as it likes to be known) has revealed that it receives almost 600 complaints every month from the public as it digs up the streets to install a new nationwide broadband Internet access network.

The network is using a mix of fibre to the premises (FTTP), fibre to the node (FTTN) and hybrid fibre co-axial (HFC) technology. When it installs FTTP, it generally has to dig up the homeowner’s garden to run the fibre into the home. When it installs FTTN it uses the existing copper telephone network connection to peoples homes but has to run fibre to a nearby node in the street and must connect this to an electricity supply – which often means digging up the street to run a cable – and to the street corner pillars used by the existing telephone network, which means more digging. The HFC network is already in place and runs overhead on power poles so digging is not generally required.

In a Senate Estimates Committee hearing in February 2016 Scott Ludlam, the Greens Senator for Western Australia — and its communications spokesman — asked nbn CEO Bill Morrow specifically how many complaints nbn had received from people over nbn digging up their driveways to install fibre.

Morrow took the question on notice and nbn subsequently provided the following answer: “An average of 576 complaints a month are received about our build-related trenching on nature strips and across driveways.”

It added that half of these complaints were received while work was underway, before nbn could remediate any damage done during its network installation.

nbn uses both horizontal drilling and trenching techniques to install cables and in answer to another question on notice the company made clear that it would use horizontal boring when crossing private driveways. “In most instances, horizontal boring will be undertaken to avoid trenching through driveways,” nbn said.

nbn does not undertake any trenching or horizontal boring itself — all work is contracted out. Trenchless Australia magazine has produced a whitepaper that provides “an essential guide for contractors looking to procure work in the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).” It costs $40.

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