Much of the risk and associated cost with the roll out of the federal government’s proposed $43 billion national broadband network (NBN) could be averted through modeling its roll out on AT&T’s US U-Verse fibre to the home network, a senior ISP network engineer has said.
Mark Newton, a industry commentator, and network engineer at ISP Internode, said AT&T’s U-Verse network was designed from the ground up to be installed by unskilled, and therefore more cost-effective laborers.
“The way [AT&T] did it was to get the manufacturers of the fibre optic cables to have a look at CAD (computer aided design) drawings of each neighbourhood they were rolling fibre out into,” he said. “They then pre-manufactured the cable with all the branches it needed to reach all the houses straight out of the factory.
“That means you don’t need to do any field work to install it other than haul it through the ducts. So most of the physical work can be done by anyone who is able to haul cable.”
In this way, more of the NBN budget could be dedicated to the engineering and project management skills required to properly design, capacity plan and manage the network roll out, Newton said.
“You can imagine that if they rolled out a national network that didn’t get capacity planning right, then we would be stuck with congestion for ever. So, a lot of effort will need to go into it to get those kind of details right,” he said.
David Cannon, program manager, telecommunications at market researchers IDC, said access to skilled labour for the roll out of the NBN would not be an issue.
“It is not a hugely complex thing in the terms of the technical nous to do it - it’s more about the man power to do the labour part of it that is more the issue,” he said.
Despite this, Cannon said there was a good chance the federal government could fill the 25,000 plus roles required to roll out the NBN.
“Without a doubt there will be more than 25,000 people who will put their hands up to have guaranteed work for the next eight years.” he said.