NBN Co puts greenfields on roadmap

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NBN Co puts greenfields on roadmap

Business plan to be developed.

NBN Co has revealed it will produce a "commercially viable business plan" for greenfields sites after months of uncertainty over what its role might be in such estates.

The next-generation network builder listed a new "Manager, Greenfields" role on its jobs bulletin overnight.

The successful candidate will be responsible for "production and implementation of a commercially viable business plan for Greenfield sites, which is aligned with the overall [NBN Co] business plan."

He or she will be responsible for "stakeholder management of Greenfield sites nationally".

But noticeably absent in the list of stakeholders are third-party builders such as Opticomm and OPENetworks - the listing mentions only governments, "councils, property developers and internal stakeholders".

A spokeswoman for NBN Co said that responsibility for commercial relationships sits outside of the greenfields management role.

"The successful applicant advertised in this role will help the company define an approach to these developments in conjunction with others in the company responsible for commercial relationships," she said.

To build or not to build

The greenfields manager role involves developing relationships with all levels of government "to ensure we create strategic opportunities for NBN Co in the short to medium term".

It also involves "ethically influencing developers in order to produce an economically viable business plan."

That wording adds fuel to speculation over whether NBN Co will leave future greenfields network construction to existing third-party network builders or whether it will try and compete with them for work from property developers.

The NBN Co spokeswoman told iTnews that the company "is conscious of the challenge of ensuring Greenfield developments are NBN ready."

'NBN ready' is a euphemism for estates that will get trenches that are ready to accept NBN fibre - without a timeline on when they might get fibre itself.

NBN Co has previously told iTnews it is awaiting regulatory clarity from the Government before it decides whether to offer fibre installation services to property developers.

That clarity will come at least six months later than expected as the Opposition continues to stall debate on greenfields legislation.

Fixed pressure

Senate Estimates hearings this week revealed the pressure that the Government is under to ensure fixed-line infrastructure continues to be deployed in new housing estates.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Estimates that the Government is in "discussions" with Telstra and the housing industry "to ensure that a fixed line product continues to be in place" in new housing estates despite Telstra's decision not to no longer offer ‘free' copper networks to property developers.

The telco has instead offered to dig fibre-ready pits and pipes, potentially leaving some housing estates without any fixed-line infrastructure, relying on wireless networks until the NBN rolls past.

Conroy told Estimates this week that the Government wouldn't accept that situation and was seeking a workaround.

"The Government is concerned about Telstra's statement that it may only supply wireless services in some new developments," a spokeswoman for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) told iTnews.

"We are having discussions with Telstra about this issue. The Department is also consulting with ACMA on what is required under the existing [universal service obligation] regulatory framework."

It is unclear whether NBN Co could play a role in alleviating the situation by offering fibre in place of Telstra's copper offer.

The DBCDE spokeswoman believed Telstra understood "that new estates need fibre", hinting that outside involvement might be unnecessary.

"That's why they [Telstra] are rolling it [fibre] out commercially in certain places," she said.

"But we also need to ensure there is a sensible transition period - and that's what the [greenfields] legislation before Parliament sets out to achieve."

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