Electricity grid operator Transpower is downplaying any ambitions it may have to participate in the government's ultra-fast broadband deployment
"Transpower's business is electricity - not fibre," a spokeswoman says.
Transpower also warns there are limited opportunities available to use the wider Transpower network due to number of legal, economic and technical constraints.
Earlier this week, documents released under the Offcial Information Act and reported by the Dominion Post indicated Transpower was showing "great interest" in the UFB plan and had been encouraged to participate by the Ministry of Economic Development (MED).
Transpower showed support for the broadband plan through its MED submission in April and highlighted the areas which Transpower’s network might be able to play a supporting role, Transpower's communications manager, Rebecca Wilson, says.
"We encourage the deployment of broadband as we have specific routes which are not currently being addressed by industry and we expect that funding for backhaul will assist in those routes being addressed," she says. "Essentially, Transpower has the potential to participate with industry in providing some of its fibre assets such as the Cook Strait crossing and the route between Christchurch and Wellington once commissioned as part of a diverse backhaul network. "We would also look for opportunities to participate with industry in building or leasing backhaul fibre routes that do not currently exist and that service some of our more remote substations if this was the least cost solution for doing so." Wilson says the constraints mean it is unlikely that Transpower's electricity transmission network would be able to be used as the prime vehicle for the backhaul of fibre. "Note that only 3 percent or less than 400km of the power transmission network carries optical ground wire (OPGW) and currently less than 40 percent of the electricity transmission network carries earth wire that could be replaced with OPGW. "Generally retrofitting OPGW is expected to be substantially more expensive than deploying buried fibre except in relatively remote areas that are not currently serviced with fibre by others."
Wilson also takes issue with suggestions electricity substations could be considered ideal locations for interconnection.
"There are better points of interconnection than Transpower's substations. Our substations are in a high voltage environment (which poses both safety and security of supply risks) and there is limited access (without being accompanied by a Transpower representative)," she says.
Transpower owns approximately 1,000km of fibre and leases around 4,000km from third parties.