Dark fibre access assured in NZRFG fibre bid

National Layer 2 network planned, but not exclusive

The government may have hit the jackpot in its efforts to build an open access ultrafast broadband network, with the infrastructure companies bidding for the project offering access to unlit or dark fibre as well as planning a national network of lit fibre.

The government’s stated preference is for open access to dark fibre (Later 1), which would allow users to light their own fibre and use it in any way they please. It would also reduce the cost of network services.

The New Zealand Regional Fibre Group (NZRFG) and Vector are offering access to lit fibre (Layer 2) in their bids for a piece of the $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband network project.

However, Neil Simmonds, the CEO of NZRFG member Counties Power, says while the group is working together to create a Layer 2 lit network, that is not exclusive. Other providers will be able to light fibre too.

“I expect people like Telecom to install their own Layer 2,” he says.

Some end users could also be expected to light their own fibre, Simmonds says. Counties Power itself could be interested in doing so to service its substations, he says.

Vector hopes to secure the Auckland region contract where it already has a substantial fibre network. It plans to build fibre out to all Auckland homes, businesses, schools and hospitals, 450,000 premises, during a seven year build.

It too today confirmed that the network would be open access at Layer 1.

The 19-strong NZRFG group submitted what it describes as “a number of closely aligned proposals” for consideration under the government’s $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband initiative.

The bids cover approximately 80 percent of the country, it says and the group is proposing to extend out beyond the 33 main centres the government has highlighted as priorities for ultra-fast fibre broadband.

In its submission to the government’s UFB proposal, the Telecommunications Users’ Association (TUANZ) said the most open and competition-conducive form of access is delivered through dark fibre.

However, it noted that where there is likely to be limited competition due to low population density, lit fibre may be more appropriate.

“As a rule of thumb, in areas where it is likely that there will multiple wholesale customers, then dark fibre should be offered. If limited competition appears likely, then providing lit fibre will provide a lower cost of entry to new entrants, thus stimulating competition,” the submission says.

Meanwhile, Telecom has released some details of its UFB bids.

The company has provided what it calls a “fully compliant” Preferred Commercial Model proposal, and an Alternative Commercial Model proposal.

The alternative proposal suggests delivering a national network using Telecom’s fibre-to-the-node programme as a springboard to deliver fibre-to-the-home.

Telecom says it has designed its proposal to meet the needs of all access seekers.

“Make no mistake; this will be a future-proofed, built to international standards, ‘open to all comers’ network,” says CEO Paul Reynolds.

However, it remained unclear today whether ‘open to all comers’ includes open to unlit fibre.

"These details are all confidential and I can't advance on the statement released today," says Telecom spokesman Mark Watts.

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