NBN Co close to finalising MDU cabling contractor

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NBN Co close to finalising MDU cabling contractor

Considers extending existing relationship.

NBN Co is negotiating with one of its existing network construction contractors to begin rolling fibre cabling to multi-dwelling units (MDUs).

Chief operating officer Ralph Steffens told a parliamentary committee inquiry last night that while fibre rollout to MDUs did not come under existing contracts with construction firms, NBN Co was "talking to one" of its existing partners to begin such works.

"We are in trials with a number of contractors," he said. "We are about to award the contracts for the MDU [rollout]."

NBN Co has been seeking cabling contractors and a managed services partner to perform MDU work under request for proposals issued in May last year.

MDUs are expected to comprise about a third of all premises to receive an NBN connection.

Steffens said the company was "connecting MDUs today" although it did not have a formal partner looking after that specific part of the network build.

NBN Co also faced questions from Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull about the options available to it should a Body Corporate refuse an NBN connection, or be otherwise unable to support NBN fibre being drawn up from the MDU's basement into individual premises.

Chief executive officer Mike Quigley reiterated earlier advice that the company had the power to declare a difficult MDU as "frustrated" and move on, although he later said that NBN Co had yet to come across such a situation.

"We think most body corporates will say [the NBN] is a good thing, go ahead and install it," Quigley said.

"We frankly anticipate not a large number of MDUs to be declared frustrated."

Turnbull pressed NBN Co on whether an additional option could be to terminate NBN fibre in the MDU basement, and use existing copper wires for the 'last-mile' connection into individual apartments or townhouses, rather than pull NBN fibre from the street to each premise.

However, Quigley noted that such an option was not in NBN Co's remit.

"We just can't do that," he said. "It's not an option we have before us.

"We execute on the objectives set by Government. We're directed to provide fibre to the premise and that's what we're doing."

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