The first stage of the National Broadband Network has begun in Tasmania with an open competitive tender for fibre optic cable by Aurora Energy.
The first stage of the NBN rollout is expected to deliver wholesale-only, open access broadband network services in the second quarter of 2010.
It will, according to the Federal and Tasmanian governments, also provide “valuable learnings” for the benefit of the wider rollout of the network on the mainland of Australia.
The Federal Government said a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties had been signed, and a new company (TNBN Co) would be established to undertake the project.
TNBN Co will be a subsidiary of NBN Co jointly owned by Aurora Energy, and will construct a fibre-to-the-premises network to deliver speeds of 100 megabits per second, to 200,000 Tasmanian households and businesses.
The remainder of Tasmanian premises will be served by next-generation wireless or satellite services, offering speeds of 12 megabits per second or more.
Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the launch of the 300-plus kilometre Basslink route between Gippsland and George Town would drive competition in the ‘backhaul’ route and reduce the cost of broadband in Tasmania.
“It will stimulate broadband investment and development and open up opportunities for competitive internet service providers to enter the Tasmanian market,” Conroy said. “Genuine competitive pressure in the market drives lower prices, facilitates innovation and ensures greater choice in service and product offerings.”
In related news, representatives of the Tasmanian ICT industry have expressed reservations over the timing of a Labor party fundraising dinner, set to be attended by top telco executives hoping to participate in National Broadband Network.
The fundraiser, hosted by Communications minister Stephen Conroy and Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett, requests attendees to donate up to $5000 a head to the Tasmanian branch of the Labor party.
Given the timing of the launch of the BassLink fibre optic link today, representatives from the ICT industry have expressed reservations around the fundraiser dinner despite assurances from the Tasmanian Premier that around ensuring a transparent tender process.
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‘It’s been billed as a fundraiser for the Labor party, TasICT president Peter Gartlan said. “So, I think the timing around that event, given the timing of the NBN issues in Tasmania at the moment, is probably a little bit tricky.’
‘We’ve been given assurances by the Tasmanian government that all proper processes around tenders will be followed, with due probity applied and we don’t have any reason to think otherwise... I’m sure it won’t be the case that people who don’t attend this dinner won’t be able to participate in the NBN business. That would be ridiculous.”
Digital Tasmania president Andrew Connor expressed concerns over the dinner, and criticised the the lack of detail in the Basslink announcement, and its long delay in construction.
"It’s interesting that it’s such a key time for that sort of business to talk to those people in power - when there is a tender process now underway," he said.
"We would have hoped to have heard which towns may get it first, a little more technical information, and that the date was a bit closer than April next year.'
An early state election in Tasmania has been tipped for March 2010.