September 25, 2013
Australia Looks into Fiber Network with Rollout Behind Schedule
By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer
Australia is looking a bit light these days in terms of fiber, and the national fiber network that was going into place is well behind schedule. Targeted rollouts are actually around 50 percent behind targeted levels, and that's making the new Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, very concerned about the whole affair. Concerned to the point where, according to current reports, resignations are actively being sought from the directors involved with the project.
The new target for the number of buildings with fiber broadband connections, as explained by Turnbull to reporters in Sydney recently, by the end of June 2014 is now half of what was originally targeted. Original projections put the numbers at around 1.3 million, but has been plagued by a combination of missed deadlines and cost overage. At the end of June, just 33,600 homes and businesses had access to the fiber network, with another 207,500 premises connected to the system but not yet engaged. Plans created in 2011, meanwhile, suggested that the numbers should be closer to the two million mark.
The board behind the rollouts, however, appears to be duly falling upon swords, as only one member of the seven-person board has not as yet tendered a resignation. Yet Turnbull noted that this measure “should not be regarded as any criticism of any of the directors,” but rather should be seen as a way to give the government improved flexibility in redesigning the overall board to alter policy accordingly.
Indeed, policy alterations are looking to take effect, as Turnbull and Tony Abbott—Australia's current Prime Minister—are looking to finish the job in a different fashion, saving money from original projections by making more use of copper wire that's currently in place. The fiber, meanwhile, will run only about a kilometer out from junction boxes, and then switch over to copper for the rest of the way.
The original plan was to run fiber to nearly every home and workplace, originally set to hit 2.7 million homes and businesses. The new plan, meanwhile, calls for less than one million homes and businesses to have such access in June 2014, and compares even worse against plans to have 12 million fiber connections established by 2021. However, there's a note of good news here, as even the revised plan will give every household access to 25 megabit per second speeds by 2016.
Access to high-speed Internet service is an issue that currently impacts large parts of the planet, particularly those parts not near a major city. The Australian government seems to have a good plan in place to improve access, and surely even three years from now, 25 megabits per second will still be a good speed. With many places the world over working at under three megabits--and plenty of those much, much less—the idea of having 25 megabits seems like a dream so far off as to be not even worth considering.
Given the enormous potential economic advantages of such speeds, however, getting said speeds in place is a worthwhile idea that should pay dividends long-term for the Australian government, especially as related to the increasing amount of commerce being carried out over the Internet.
Edited by Alisen Downey
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