NBN Co reveals that a shortage in specialist workers, remediation work and “substantial” civil works involved have made the rollout of its fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) network challenging.
Posting on the network provider’s blog, NBN Co chief network deployment officer Kathrine Dyer said FTTC was a lot more complex to roll out compared to the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network and was “far more akin” to the original fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout.
“While FTTC design and construction is not as problematic as the original FTTP build, the introduction of innovations such as ‘skinny fibre’ and not needing to go all the way into the premises itself, it is a much more complex build than FTTN because we are deploying and building so much deeper into the community,” Dyer wrote.
“This reintroduces many variables such as duct and pit quality, accessing land and constructing much closer to premises.”
The company is also facing a shortage in highly skilled workers to complete the deployment, seeing “tight” competition in the construction industry for skilled civil crews to conduct many of the remediation and construction work.
“The civil works required for deploying our FTTC access network – drilling, boring, digging, trenching and subsequent remediation – are highly skilled functions that require specialist workers,” Dyer said.
She said many other large construction programs in New South Wales and Victoria had made it more competitive to bring in workers, and that NBN Co and its partners had also considered sourcing additional civil workers from New Zealand and in other countries.
Another challenge cited was the need to conduct “extensive” civil works involved in building conduits for the large amounts of fibre needed for the network rollout.
“The real challenge for us on our FTTC access network – just as it also was on our FTTP access network – comes from the amount of remediation work we need to do in the telecom pits that house our FTTC equipment,” Dyer wrote.
“At present, we are finding that we need to perform substantial civil works on many of these pits before we can install the distribution point units (DPUs) and connect into the existing copper. This is essentially the same experience we had on FTTP when we had to put new fibre joints into the pits.”
Dyer revealed further that a standard operating crew conducting pit remediation work would usually complete up to three pits per day depending on the difficulty of the work needed.
“We have learnt a huge amount over these last months while building our FTTC access network,” Dyer said.
“Our most important goal is to make sure we are building a network that helps phone and internet providers deliver a great experience, while maintaining the safety of the community, staff and our delivery partners."