Aurora Energy in the hot seat for Tassie NBN rollout

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Aurora Energy in the hot seat for Tassie NBN rollout

State-owned Aurora Energy is widely tipped to be the implementation partner of choice to deliver Fibre to the Home (FttH) in Tasmania in the wake of the Federal Government's NBN announcement yesterday.

Launching the Government's National Broadband Network  backflip in Canberra, Senator Stephen Conroy said the Feds will be "negotiating with Tasmania in the next 24 hours" on the potential to roll-out a new FttH network to Tasmanians.

Today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is in Devonport to talk up the Tasmanian investment.

Conroy said the Tasmanian Government's proposal to Senator Conroy's Request for Tender "fitted well with the Rudd Government's new approach."

"We understand that they have been ready to go for a considerable period of time so we believe that the Tasmanian roll out of the national broadband network can actually be commenced by the middle of the year, June, July," he said.

State-owned power utility Aurora Energy is widely tipped as the party that will provision FttH to Tasmanian residents under the Tasmanian Government's proposal.

Aurora has already trialled FttH during the $10 million Tasmanian Government funded TASColt project, which connects several hundred Tasmanian homes in New Town, South Hobart and Devonport using EPON (Ethernet Passive Optical Network) technology.

The Tasmanian Government is eventually looking to connect some 1000 premises during the trial.

TASColt is arguably the only brownfield (connecting existing premises) Fibre to the Home rollout in the country to date.

Mike Larkin, telecommunications and broadband manager for Aurora Energy said he was not yet in a position to discuss Aurora's prospects in an NBN roll-out, but said TASColt has been a "very stable, very positive" trial.

"It was rolled out using sound engineering principles," he said. "We now understand the complexities of building a brownfield FttH network and we have a lot of learnings from the trial."

A win for Tasmania

According to the Federal Government, Tasmania has the lowest level of broadband penetration of any state in Australia - at 32 per cent of households.

This broadband deficiency is often attributed to the monopoly Telstra has held in terms of a fibre optic link to the Australian mainland - a monopoly soon to be broken with the Basslink connection.

Andrew Connor, spokesperson for local IT lobby group Digital Tasmania said he was "very happy with the outcome" of the NBN process.

"Not only will this NBN raise Australia's standing in the international digital economy, but at the state level, it will raise Tasmanians from being the poor cousins to the top of the broadband pile."

"Obviously there's quite a lot of detail that we still need to get across, but broadly we're very supportive of the plan."

"Full credit must go to the current Tasmanian Government for the initiative shown in lodging a proposal. It was a bold move, and it appears set to deliver tremendous dividends for every Tasmanian business and consumer who relies on high speed broadband access."

UPDATE (2PM) - Senator Stephen Conroy has now confirmed that some 250,000 Tasmanian homes and businesses will be connected via Aurora Energy's FttH roll-out, with the remainder of Tasmanian residents served by higher-speed wireless services. 

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