Why Is A Quarter Of The NBN Being Constructed Aerially?

Given the kerfuffle that has broken out today between NBN Co and the New South Wales government over access to power pole infrastructure when rolling out aerial portions of the NBN, it is probably a good time to explain why around 25% of the NBN won’t be built underground.

According to the current NBN Co Business Plan – (on page 15) – approximately 25% of the NBN is expected to be constructed aerially.

But why?

Basically, the reason comes from a decision many years ago to run the original copper network underground only down one side of many streets, to speed up the original rollout of the Customer Access Network (CAN) – better known as the existing Telstra telephone network.

By only having to trench down one side of the street, and not both – and run copper phone lines to the other side of the street aerially via the power poles – a great amount of time and money was saved by only having to dig half as many trenches.

In effect, it made it as cheap and as fast as possible to deliver, by slashing construction times. By all means, this wasn’t done everywhere, but it was in many areas.

Like my street.

As you can see from this first photo, Telstra pits are only visible on the right hand side of the road:

This is a close-up of the pit you can see in the middle of the first photo:

This is the second power pole up the street, showing the Telstra copper lines coming up out of the ground – (inside the white conduit) – and heading up the pole:

And towards the top of the pole, you see the phone lines distributing out to the houses on the opposite side of the street:

This situation is common. Since NBN Co expects about 25% of the network to be built aerially, it’s reasonable to extrapolate that approximately 50% of the streets around the country fall into this category.

Given NBN Co has negotiated to use all of Telstra existing ‘pit and pipe’ – (and in this example, ‘pit-pipe-and-pole’) – the foresightedness that was shown 60 years ago by the old Postmaster General’s Department to save time and money when building the copper network – (and get Australia back on its feet after World War 2) – will do the same for NBN Co now.

It will save them time and money.

NBN Co won’t have to dig any trenches, or erect any new poles.

Quite rightly, NBN Co has refuted the cost claims made by the NSW government with respect to the ridiculous standoff that has just eventuated – which has most likely come about for political purposes.

So don’t worry about aerial NBN connectivity. If you end up with aerial fibre, it’s because you’ve got aerial copper now. They are just following the existing infrastructure.

Nothing changes.

UPDATE (31/10/2012, 9:25am): In moving forward with aerial construction plans in New South Wales, NBN Co has moved to invoke Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act to break the impasse. This schedule “provides carriers with the power to inspect land to determine whether the land is suitable for the carriers’ purposes; install a facility on the land; and the power to maintain a facility that is situated on the land.”