As the time nears when the ultra-fast broadband initiative and its counterpart Rural Broadband Initiative will move into practical implementation, the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) is preparing participants for what may be unfamiliar techniques of fibre deployment, never before tried in New Zealand.
Such techniques, including microtrenching and shallow trenching, are advisable to minimise the cost and deployment time of what will be an expensive network development.
Between 50 and 80 percent of the cost of deploying fibre broadband infrastructure is in the civil works associated with trenching fibre-optic cable or stringing cable overhead from poles, says MED.
As such, it aims to set up a number of projects to develop deployment standards and test them in advance, through pilot projects.
Standards will assist the several parties that may be involved in development under the control of different local fibre companies to work in a consistent and efficient way. The presence of consistent standards will also help overcome potential concern by local authorities at the use of unfamiliar techniques and facilitate necessary approvals.
Microtrenching, for example, involves laying fibre in narrow but deep saw-cuts in the seal at the side of roads. This may give territorial local authorities cause for concern that the integrity of the roading system will be affected and that work of unpredictable duration and impact will be taking place.
“Infrastructure companies have expressed a desire to have certainty regarding the regulations and consent terms that will be required for a wide-scale deployment,” says MED. “Many of these companies have expressed concerns over the costs and delays that accrue as a result of the variation across Territorial Local Authorities in consenting approaches or planning requirements.”
A coherent set of well-tested standards, MED expects, will smooth these obstacles.
“It is intended that the standards developed would ultimately be fed into the National Code of Practice for Utilities’ Access to Transport Corridors (the ‘Utilities Code’), to be given regulatory status under the Utilities Access Act 2010,” says MED in a document requesting expressions of interest from organisations wanting to be involved in the development and testing process.
The Utilities Access Act is planned to firm up a hitherto voluntary code for utilities’ access to transport corridors.
The deployment standards initiative will be jointly run by MED and the Digital Auckland Working Party, a coalition of organisations established last year with expertise in the application of telecommunications and ICT as applied to broadband deployment.
It is envisaged a standards working group and a separate group to run testing will work under an overall project coordination group. As standards are developed, the testing group will conduct laboratory tests, followed by small pilot deployment projects in selected areas.
Local authorities are expected to play a significant role in the pilots, says MED.
The ministry is seeking expressions of interest from parties who wish to participate in the proposed deployment pilot investigations and/or the standards development work.
A request for proposals will be issued in about August, “detailing the government’s requirements and inviting bids from parties interested in participating and contributing to particular pilot investigations,” says MED.
Standards for each of the deployment techniques will be developed through a series of workshops and progress reported to all interested parties through a project website.
After standards definition and pilot projects, a good-practice guide is expected to be issued by April next year.