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nbn announces construction contracts for HFC upgrade

nbn has named six companies that it will engage on construction of the HFC portion of the National Broadband Network, with work scheduled to begin in August. 

The companies – or “Delivery Partners” as they are called - are Lend Lease, Broadspectrum, Fulton Hogan, Downer, ISGM and BSA. 

The work will involve the upgrade of that part of the HFC footprint which is based on the existing Telstra HFC infrastructure, covering around 3.5 million premises. It is intended that the upgraded network will deliver wholesale speeds of up to 100 Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload. 

Telstra itself has the contract for redesign of the network and for project managing the upgrade. 

The ramping up of work on the HFC section of the NBN over the next three to four years is central to the company’s meeting both its long term and intermediate targets. nbn has set itself the ambitious task of connecting some 900,000 premises to its HFC platform over the next 12 months and having 200,000 active users by June 2017. 

The targets for June 2018 are 2,350,000 premises ready-for-service on the HFC network, with 1,050,000 active users. 

To get these numbers in perspective, E-bulletin readers should note that the NBN has only recently passed its 1 million active user milestone –just over 7 years since the project was announced in April 2009. 

There is a lot of work ahead and the question as to where the matching workforce will come from remains largely unanswered despite an increased focus on this issue by nbn itself in recent times. 

The CWU understands that tens of thousands of potential NBN workers have been registered through nbn’s Enable portal but how many are sufficiently skill-ready to be deployed on the HFC programme is another matter. 

The CWU has consistently voiced concerns on this score since the beginning of the NBN project. The union will be monitoring this new phase closely to ensure that skill shortages don’t lead to short-term solutions which are contrary both to our members’ interests and which may compromise the quality of this national infrastructure.

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