Home > Industry > NBN Co Looks To Snare ‘Dark Fibre’ For Key Rollouts

NBN Co Looks To Snare ‘Dark Fibre’ For Key Rollouts

NBN Co is looking to acquire access to so-called “dark fibre” as it increasingly looks to boost services to enterprise and government customers without the very expensive business of having to lay new fibre.

The NBN builder yesterday launched a telecommunications industry consultation paper to explore possible approaches for the procurement of additional dark fibre services from network carriers in customer locations already served to some extent by existing fibre.

However with the existing fibre already heavily in use, and with a possible end in sight for government funding for the rollout, NBN Co is looking for ways to continue connecting major users – especially high-paying enterprise and government clients.

Should the Government approve its plans, NBN Co should have little trouble finding dark fibre resources.

The Sydney-based Vocus Group, for instance, appears to have ample supplies and has been openly advertising its availability to business houses.

Whence came these supplies? Says Vocus: “When creating an optical fibre network, many planners choose to install much more cabling than is currently required. So, if their optical fibre requirements grow, the infrastructure is already in place, and there is no need to spend more money expanding the network.

The extra cabling also works as a failsafe – so if the cabling in use fails, there is still unused cabling available to take up the slack.

“Another reason for dark fibre’s existence was the [1995-200] dotcom bubble. During that time, telecoms traffic – especially data traffic – was predicted to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future,” Vocus says.

“Many telephone companies built an excess of optical fibre networks in order to corner that predicted market. When the bubble burst, a large portion of that new fibre network went dark.”

Now, as NBN Co is finding, its day may have come – time for the dark cables to light up. NBN Co, it seems couldn’t agree more. It is proposing two possible approaches to dark fibre procurement.

In an industry consultation paper published yesterday, NBN Co said it is proposing two possible approaches to dark fibre procurement for linking to customer premises.

“Option One would involve the expansion of NBN Co’s current Request For Proposal (RFP) process in which the company would request one or more pre-qualified NBN-approved suppliers to provide a proposal to supply dark fibre connectivity services at specific locations.

“This would support the delivery of either NBN/s TC2 or Enterprise Ethernet service,” the NBN Co paper says.

“Option Two involves NBN Co establishing an industry-wide reverse-auction process by which the company would periodically conduct reverse auctions.

“This would allow existing fibre network providers to bid, on a confidential basis, to supply NBN Co with dark fibre connectivity services to specified locations.”

It adds that NBN Co sees this as a possible way to lower expected costs and/or time to delivery, compared to NBN Co deploying its own infrastructure.

It has invited network carriers – presumably including Vocus – to submit written submissions on these proposals by February 24.

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