Using the NBN for smart grids
The energy industry, faced with rising capital spending costs that may dwarf the NBN, was looking to offset costs especially around providing command-and-control infrastructure to every household and business.
Industry voices at the conference told iTnews that it made sense to partner with NBN Co, which was passing every house as it rolled out over the next eight years. In that way, energy providers - generators, distributors and retailers - may defray or reduce spending.
But while Ferris was pitching to the power industry, he said that NBN Co's prime responsibility was to the broadband network and that it wouldn't compromise or increase its costs if the utilities couldn't get their act together.
For instance, NSW power provider Energy Australia was building a WiMax wireless network to control its smart grid deployment and connect 1.6 million households - a network that was of little use to NBN Co, Ferris said. Energy Australia general manager of engineering Geoff Lilliss later said that "interoperability with the NBN has quite strategic possibilities for the [power] industry" because it made sense to install customer-premises equipment for both projects at the same time.
|Energy Australia general manager of engineering Geoff Lilliss|
"There are many, many different networks that exist in the country today," Ferris said. "We smile and nod and say thank you very much but we’re building a delivery network that transports data to 100 percent of the premises.
"How does it (Energy Australia's WiMax network) fit? It doesn’t."
"An ambitious project" delayed by the elements
Ferris admitted that rains and physical obstacles had slowed the building of the network - it was running about two months behind schedule owing to unforeseen issues.
"We need to ramp up to 1.5 million homes passed a year," Ferris said.
"That's roughly 6000 a day.
"If it rains, we gotta catch up. If we miss something, we gotta catch up. It's what they call an ambitious project."
He said that when NBN Co hits its stride, 20,000 to 24,000 people will be involved in construction.
"Funnily enough, when you're digging out there with all this gear down each street and it starts to rain you've got to stop work so we're a little bit behind where we'd like to be and would have liked to have the passive [optical transmission gear] finished by now; it's not.
"It won't be finished until the end of January [due to] delays with, funnily enough, rock.
"We encountered a little bit more of that in [early-release site] Minnamurra than in other places."
iTnews is a media partner of the IQPC Smart Grids forum.
More connection points means more business for backhaul operators while less points means ISPs will be the prime beneficiaries of the NBN. Who should get the easier run - wholesalers or retailers? Which plan delivers the best returns for Australia? Tell us how many PoIs there should be and where they should be located in the comments below.