Enable Networks aims to keep it simple on UFB

Canterbury's Local Fibre Co set to choose from a short list of three technology partners

Complex products and services should be the domain of retail service providers on the Ultra Fast Broadband network – not the infrastructure builders.

That’s the view of Enable Networks CEO Steve Fuller, who says the products offered by the Local Fibre Cos (Enable, Ultra Fast and Northpower) and Chorus, should be as simple as possible in order to ensure a seamless national fibre network.

Enable Networks, which is the LFC for Canterbury, plans to announce its technology partner later this month, and Fuller says it will pick from a short list of three – Ericsson (chosen by Northpower), Huawei (Ultra Fast) and Alcatel-Lucent (Chorus).

Fuller says that three different technology partners shouldn’t result in issues around interoperability at layer 2 (lit fibre) if the products are relatively homogenous.

“All of the value add should be added at the service provider layer and not the LFC layer. If we can continue down that principle then I don’t believe there are any insurmountable issues using different Ethernet-based technologies,” Fuller says.

He points out the Ethernet is an accepted worldwide transmission protocol with established international standards.

Enable Networks plans to release products that are similar to Chorus’s for those RSPs looking for consistency across the whole country.

“But there’s a whole bunch of other products that will come out which aren’t quite the same as Chorus and which we believe add greater value,” says Fuller.

Enable Networks and Chorus are currently in discussions over how they might work closer together. This could take the form of Chorus buying into the Christchurch council-owned company. “There’s a whole bunch of options on the table that we’re looking at,” he says.

In common with the other LFCs and Chorus, the Enable `Networks rollout will be primarily GPON to the mass market.

“Where we are different is that we are investing a little bit more in tubing infrastructure, which makes us a little bit technology agnostic,” Fuller says.

“If the GPON-type technology doesn’t develop at the pace of user demand we’ve got a certain amount of flexibility in our network architecture to be able to put in different, more point-to-point orientated, equipment.”

Fuller says the recent spate of aftershocks that began in Christchurch on December 23 didn’t cause any structural damage to the network.

The areas most affected were in east Christchurch, and Enable Networks doesn’t plan to roll out to those suburbs for another two years.

Fuller says Enable Networks has redesigned the network layout to accommodate expansion in the western parts of the city, in the suburbs Halswell, Redwood and Wigram, as people migrate from the east to new greenfield sites.

Scientific predictions that the city will suffer aftershocks for decades, and the possibility that continued uncertainty could see a major exodus from the city, hasn’t radically changed Enable Networks’ plans – yet.

“We’re relatively sheltered from that side of the equation if it’s looking at a 20-30 percent population decrease, anything beyond that then we’d have to perhaps re-crunch the numbers.”

The company employs around 40 people and has experienced about 10 percent staff churn since the earthquake in February last year. As it has been difficult to find replacement staff in Christchurch Enable Networks has recruited from Auckland and Wellington, Fuller says.

“There’s an opportunity to be part of the rebuild of a new modern city... to say ‘we helped rebuild Christchurch to a bigger and better place than what it was before.”

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