NBN Co has revealed plans to finish rolling out fibre to the first apartment buildings by June, months after commercial services in surrounding areas were switched on.
Apartments - dubbed multi-dwelling units or MDUs by NBN Co - are expected to make up approximately one third of all premises to receive a National Broadband Network connection.
However, rollout to apartment blocks remains a sore point for NBN Co, with little information provided on how it will deal with body corporate approvals and restrictive conduits within buildings.
The prevalence of apartment buildings in the trial site of Brunswick in Melbourne was particularly seen as a significant hurdle to construction and subsequent take-up of services on the network in that area.
NBN Co chief operating officer Ralph Steffen said construction in apartment buildings would follow the same techniques and technology as those in standard homes and premises.
“It is not too hard, there are entire countries being fibred which only have MDUs, basically,” he said.
NBN Co has sought registrations from body corporate and building owners interested in receiving network connections across Australia as it ramps up into a three-year plan aimed at passing 3.5 million premises by 2015.
Tenders for cabling sub-contractors and a managed service provider for MDU installation have not been awarded.
It is believed NBN Co is continuing to negotiate contracts with a shortlist of companies.
The winning contractor, expected to be named within weeks, would specifically act as an intermediary between body corporates at apartment buildings and NBN Co to achieve approval for installation as well as providing detailed designs for each building on the best way to roll out fibre.
Sources told iTnews that NBN Co had sought international expertise on the issue but that the contract scope had changed significantly since tenders were first called for in June last year.
Steffens said the company was looking to innovative new products that enabled easier fibre installation in apartments, including thinner wiring and other installation techniques.
NBN Co is required to provide the same fibre technology to each apartment as it does to residential homes under directions from the Federal Government.
However, it was afforded an escape clause, with the ability to list apartments that were difficult to connect or refused connection as ‘frustrated’.
An NBN Co spokeswoman did not answer questions about whether this clause had been used to date by the time of publication.