Telecom to learn from small fibre to houses pilot

Manukau fibre-optic trial pace moves ahead slowly but surely

Telecom and Manukau City Council are moving ahead with the Flat Bush greenfield fibre-optic trial, which started in 2004 already but has been hampered by the slow pace of development in the area.

Fibre has been laid to around 450 sites at Mission Heights, and Telecom hopes to have three to four households on its Next Generation Broadband service (NGB) over the next few weeks.

The NGB provides up to 30Mbit/s downstream speeds over a Passive Optical Network (PON) with the only cost to the customers during the trial being a $49.95 activation fee. Around Christmas, Telecom hopes to have thirty households on the NGB, with more taking it up until the trial ends last of July next year.

Asked why Telecom went with a comparatively low 30Mbit/s speed instead of the more commonly seen 100Mbit/s, Mike Schwalger, Telecom's Investment Planning Manager, says it is sufficient for the services that will be provided over the network. He points out that while higher line speeds look impressive, there are currently very few sources on the Internet able to supply services that fast.

The pilot is designed to provide Telecom with operational field experience of running an optical network, something Schwalger says is very different from a copper-based DSL one.

Fibre from the exchange will be laid to an Optical Line Terminator, from where it will a passive splitter separates it into 30 to 32 lines to the homes. Inside the premises, customers will connect to a Home Optical Network Terminator (HONT) with two Ethernet jacks. Customers can either connect their computers directly to the HONT, or plug a router into it.

Presently, the customer premises equipment used in the trial doesn't have managment capabilities, something Schwalger says will be necessary for a large-scale commercial rollout of a fibre-optic network.

For the future, Telecom is looking at deploying fibre-optic networks at greenfield sites only, Schwalger says. The cost of laying fibre-optic cabling in streets and even in existing ducts is prohibitively expensive, according to Schwalger, meaning established areas are not like to receive FTTP service.

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