NBN Co — the company created to roll out Australia’s National Broadband Network — made a major announcement recently, revealing its rollout plans for the next three years. It’s an ambitious plan that will — if things go to plan — see fibre rolled past more than three million premises, both businesses and homes.
The question of when a given home or business premises might be getting the NBN did become a lot easier with the announcement of the three year plan; you can check the specifics of your location here.
The NBN remains, and is likely to remain a contentious political issue no matter what side of the political fence you sit on, and that makes it hard to write any kind of article without stepping — or appearing to — step on somebody’s toes. For what it’s worth, I’m not in the three year rollout plan, allied with any given political party or on NBN Co’s payroll. Just thought I’d get that out there in case anyone was confused.
Confusion’s a good word to use in relation to the NBN, because there seems to be a wide gulf between the technologically inclined, who generally get the potential benefits of an NBN (even if we don’t always all agree on some of the finer details) and the mass market image of the thing. NBN Co’s gotten a little better at communicating to the larger audience, especially via launching a series of explanatory videos — you can view them here — and a blog written by a well respected former IT technology journalist at http://nbnco.com.au/blog/.
That having been said, there’s bound to be confusion regarding who gets on the three year plan and who doesn’t, especially as you drill into a given map. It’s a complex process — imaging having to lay down a fresh set of roads for all of Australia, critically without disrupting existing roads too badly — and you’ll start to get an idea of the complexity of the project.
In theory, new developments are higher on the priority listing, as are those areas that were used as trial locations for the initial rollout. In twelve month’s time there’s a planned “update” to the three year plan that may reflect the first year’s work, and potentially embrace areas just outside the current planning zones. One factor that should — hopefully — see rollouts move a lot more swiftly than they have done to date is the fact that Telstra’s now signed up its conduits and cabling for NBN use; this will not only see the gradual retirement of the copper network that our current ADSL and telephony relies on — a copper network that costs in excess of $1 billion a year just to maintain, for those who like figures — but also allow for less intrusive NBN installation as new trenches and pipes don’t need to be dug in areas where Telstra’s already got a presence.
Will the NBN see out its three year plan? That’s a matter for politics writers, not technology blogging, but certainly we’re already seeing a host of capabilities in ehealth, teleworking, teleconferencing and simple data shifting that an NBN would be ideal for providing, and there’s a lot of historical data to suggest that this kind of large scale infrastructure project isn’t one that big business will undertake by itself; the copper network it’s replacing was, after all, a government infrastructure project itself.