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Nuts and bolts of govt fibre network

13 Oct 2009

The devil is usually in the detail and so it may prove with the government’s ultra-fast broadband plan.ICT Minister Steven Joyce is in discussion with the Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF) over the role it can play in developing national standards for its ultra-fast broadband rollout.The TCF is an industry body whose members include most of country’s telcos, and some lines companies. It develops Codes of Practise that its members sign up to in recognition of the idea that industry solutions are preferable to regulation.TCF chairman Richard Westlake met with the Minister yesterday to discuss how the Forum can be used to gain industry consensus around technical standards that facilitate interoperability and interconnection between different regions and different operators. Westlake says the Commerce Commission is also keen for the TCF to assume this role in the new fibre network.The TCF is in the process of appointing a new CEO, after Ralph Chivers resigned from the position in June to take up the role of programme manager for broadband at the MED (Chivers is widely tipped to become the CEO of the Crown Fibre Holding Company ). Applications for the position closed on 7 August, but Westlake says they don’t expect to make an announcement on the appointment until later this month.“We’re working through a process, we’re comfortable with it, we’d like to be able to do it faster but the reality is that these things take time to get right,” Westlake says.Meanwhile the MED has released a discussion paper ‘Facilitating the Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure’, which canvasses a number of issues around how the network will physically be deployed.• Councils that embrace non-regulatory measures (eg Codes of Practice etc) are likely to be first in line to get fibre deployed in their area.• Councils will need to revisit the idea of micro-trenching – that is shallow trenches to lay fibre-optic cable. Councils and utilities currently insist on 600 mm cover over the duct or cable.• The government won’t legislate to force owners of “support infrastructure” (eg power poles) to make it available to an Local Fibre Co but it will be watching to ensure the infrastructure is “made available on reasonable commercial terms.”• National backhaul is likely to be a stumbling block for LFCs (that is the connections between regions). Only LFCs in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton and Nelson will have access to competitive backhaul fibre.The MED is holding workshops in the next couple of weeks to outline the issues presented in the paper. Submissions close on 7 November.In a TR poll held in the past fortnight, just over half of those who responded - 50.6% - believe it will be more than 10 years before Fibre to the Home reaches 75% of New Zealanders.