Probe tendering delay "won't hold up rollout"

While it's still several weeks before the next successful Project Probe bidders will be named, the minister in charge of the government's broadband rollout says that won't delay network deployment

While it's still several weeks before the next successful Project Probe bidders will be named, the minister in charge of the government's broadband rollout says that won't delay network deployment.

Project Probe, which is education minister Trevor Mallard's baby, is supposed to deliver 512kbit/s symmetrical broadband coverage to schools and hospitals in regions not already covered by Telecom's JetStream network.

According to the government's Project Probe website (http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?layout=document&documentid=7887#P87_6615), the tendering process should have been completed and contracts signed off by the end of August. Rollout to the "majority of schools and communities" should be completed by November this year with the rest of the network finished by November next year.

However, Mallard says the delays aren't expected to delay the rollout.

"I am advised there have been some minor delays ... however, it is essential we get it right first time."

The project is being managed by telecommunications consultancy Amos Aked Swift (http://www.aas.co.nz) and project manager Mark Forward says the next tender announcement is likely to be "weeks rather than days" away.

"The main reason is we're more involved with working with the regions and that's taking longer than expected."

Probe has already named the winners of six regions — Walker Wireless (now Woosh Wireless) and Vodafone have won Northland, Southland and the Wairarapa and Telecom with BCL have won Waikato, Wellington and Taranaki.

However no announcement has been forthcoming on any more tenders, leaving eight more regions up in the air. A 15th region was added that covers the extremely remote parts of New Zealand and will be treated as one satellite-coverage area. Forward says several companies tendered for the satellite service and several more were approached about placing a bid. However, Probe is working with Telecom most closely at this point.

"At this stage the position we're at, given that Telecom has a commitment to put together a satellite offering for Fonterra, is we've asked for them to put together a proposal for us. If that looks good that will probably be the preferred path." Forward does say that Probe's requirements are quite different from Fonterra's.

"In which case we'll keep talking to other people."

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