UFB fibre deployment trials reach RFP stage

Initial call for pilot projects yields 'high level of interest', ministry says

The Ministry of Economic Development has issued a request for proposal for pilot projects exploring methods of fibre deployment for the ultrafast broadband (UFB) project. This follows a request earlier this year for expressions of interest (Computerworld, June 28).

The “high level of interest” shown in demonstrating appropriate techniques — obviously with a view to gaining production-stage deployment contracts — means the taxpayer will not have to pay a lot for the pilots, MED expects. “The majority of the [pilots’] costs will fall to the successful tenderer,” say question-and-answer notes on the RFP. “The government will consider making a contribution toward the total cost of the pilots in light of the tender responses received.”

Three of the seven projects will use minitrenching (digging a shallow trench compared with those usually used for cables, using a smaller excavator) and one microtrenching (making a saw-cut in road-seal in which to lay the fibres). One project will suspend the cable above ground, one will use ducts already in place for other services and the last “directional” (horizontal) drilling underground without breaking the surface.

Some of these techniques, for example microtrenching, have not been used in New Zealand, while others, such as aerial suspension and directional drilling, are well-tried. “While [the latter] deployment techniques are relatively well understood, it’s appropriate to test them under controlled conditions to enable appropriate standards to be drafted,” says MED.

The result of the completed pilots could be sold to local fibre companies to include in their UFB rollout.

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