Market City: Improving Australia's telco infrastructure

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Market City: Improving Australia's telco infrastructure

Market City CEO, Shara Evans claimed the way that systems such as backhaul fibre networks follow pre-existing corridors wherever possible was, anecdotally known throughout the industry.

But the difference between an anecdote and an analysis is that you can use the analysis to inform public policy.

"We know that whether the infrastructure is fibre or copper, there are good reasons for that infrastructure following corridors such as road, rail, or electricity supply," she said.

"Eventually, the same corridors serve the same customers.

Evans claimed for example; why not implement a uniform, national development requirement for projects such as new major rail or road corridors that includes the installation of fibre ducting at the construction stage?

"The most obvious objection is likely to be cost, but in reality the cost of such an inclusion would be trivial," she said.

"Take the Pacific Highway's Ballina Bypass, a 12.4 Km upgrade project now under construction, with an estimated completion cost of $640 million - more than $53 million per kilometre."

"In that context, the acquisition price of fibre conduit isn't a problem at all: a 50 mm fibre conduit can be purchased for between $8 and $9 per metre, a 100 mm fibre conduit for between $16 and $17 per metre - and these are one-off prices, without considering bulk discounts.

"So even at list price, 100mm conduit could be purchased for the Ballina Bypass for around $210,000. Installation during the normal civil works of a road-building project would be an almost-negligible incremental cost in the context of the entire project."

Evans said the major backhaul fibre owners did not include Ballina in their routes, preferring instead to head north from the larger city of Lismore.

"This would inhibit the backhaul choices available to ISPs who wanted to offer services in Ballina," she said.

"It is no coincidence that all of the exchanges shown in this image only house ADSL infrastructure from one carrier."

However there would be ample opportunities for cost recovery.

"For a carrier, the cost of civil works is a huge impost on any new fibre project," stated Evans.

"Civil works are a relatively low cost in the country, but in the city, the necessary council approval and make-good fees can take the cost of a new fibre trench past $2,000 per metre (which is why duct access is a declared service)."

"A pre-existing conduit would be extremely attractive to any carrier looking at a new fibre deployment, especially if that conduit is owned independently of the telecommunications industry."
She believes the same logic also applies at a local government level.

"New developments need roadworks, and even though these works involve significantly lower costs than a dual carriageway highway diversion," she said.

They are still sufficiently expensive that a fibre conduit would add only an incremental cost to the project, with the opportunity for cost recovery from the industry - and better local infrastructure."

Evans believes with the co-operation of governments at all levels- perhaps through the Council of Australian Governments or the Online Communications Council- the Federal Government could provide a long-term benefit to the telco industry.

"[It] could make appropriate and open fibre ducting a planning requirement for suitable developments, and to the infrastructure owner who will have additional opportunity to recoup its development costs," she said. 

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