NBN closes in on half-way mark for regional rollout

Non-metro rollout 42 per cent complete, NBN’s chief network engineering officer says

In Australia’s non-metro areas, the rollout of the National Broadband Network is 42 per cent complete, according to NBN’s chief network engineering officer, Peter Ryan. Non-metro Australia covers “the biggest physical expanse and lowest density areas we have,” the NBN executive said in a speech today.

Ryan today addressed the CommsDay Summit in Melbourne in his first public remarks as an NBN executive. He describes himself as “the one on the hook to have the NBN network rolled out to every home and business in Australia by 2020.”

Across Australia some 3 million homes are ready to order NBN services, Ryan said; 70 per cent of them are in regional and non-metropolitan areas.

Australia’s size, terrain and population density have made the rollout of the National Broadband Network a challenge of unprecedented complexity, according to Ryan.

It’s one of the “most complex broadband network builds ever undertaken, and we are building it with urgency,” Ryan said in remarks prepared for his address. “And it’s tough.”

“It’s the terrain I’d call out as the unique challenge,” the NBN executive said.

“From our desktop designs and engineering assessments we map out the neighbourhoods and determine technology types for implementation. But when we get into the field, to validate our designs on the ground, we are introduced to local conditions that hadn’t been visible on the maps.”

“This is where the theoretical meets the physical reality of construction,” Ryan said in his prepared remarks. “Here, we are met with many more challenges. Issues of cultural heritage, flood zones, climate conditions, such as the Pilbara versus Tasmania, and our need to be sympathetic to the visual impact on communities. This all needs to be considered.”

In total, a workforce of more than 16,000 individuals is involved in the rollout, he said.

Ryan says NBN is “creatively innovating” to deal with challenges that emerge as the network progresses.

“One example is where NBN has partnered with Madison Technologies and have invented what we call a retro-fit pillar,” the NBN executive said. “This innovation dramatically simplifies the upgrade of Telstra’s existing copper pillars, saving time and money.

“It makes design and construction simpler and quicker and it means we will be able to connect more homes at a faster rate than we have ever done before, and at a lower cost.”

Ryan said that despite weather causing a delay in the launch of NBN’s Sky Muster Two satellite, “we are still on track”.

“We’re in the midst of confirming a new launch time with our partners at ArianeSpace – we have a 48 hour window,” Ryan said. “Our next attempt will be the same time tomorrow, weather pending.”

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