NextGen selected for rural broadband backbone deployment

7 Dec 2009

Australia’s Federal Government has announced that NextGen has been selected to roll out some 6,000km of fibre-optic broadband backbone links in rural and remote regions to cover existing blackspots, ABC News reports. The state has awarded NextGen, owned by Leighton Holdings, a AUD250 million (USD228.6 million) contract to construct the links, which it says will form one of the first building blocks for the upcoming National Broadband Network. The six links to be created will connect Geraldton in Western Australia, Darwin in the Northern Territory, Emerald and Longreach in Queensland, Broken Hill in New South Wales, Victor Harbor in South Australia and South West Gippsland in Victoria. Of those, it is expected that the links to Geraldton, Victor Harbor and South West Gippsland will be completed in the next twelve months, while completion of the further-reaching connections, such as Darwin and Broken Hill, could take up to 18 months. Commenting on the development, Australia’s communications minister, Stephen Conroy, said: ‘This priority AUD250 million investment will directly benefit more than 395,000 people in 100 regional locations and create new jobs across five states and the Northern Territory.’

While reaction to the deal has been mostly favourable, the Federal Opposition has been less welcoming, with Senator Nick Minchin claiming that not enough was known about the project; ‘We have no idea what this money is actually going to be used for. We don’t know how much NextGen is putting into the project…We have no idea what services will be provided off this backhaul…We don’t know what pricing will be applied to those services and after all, backhaul is just fibre to the paddock, it doesn’t involve new services to customers. So again we find that after two years, Labor has not delivered one single broadband services under the guise of its much-touted National Broadband Network.’