NBN Co is about to begin a second large-scale FTTN trial, according to press reports.
The Australian Financial Review says that construction companies will be asked to tender for the roll-out of a 300 node FTTN network at Umina on the NSW south coast.
The trial would represent an extension of the earlier 11 node pilot that was undertaken in the area earlier in the year.
According to the AFR, the trial will involve Telstra’s being involved in the design of the network but not in its construction.
In the case of the 1000+ node trial announced last month, Telstra will be responsible for both design and construction, although it is likely to contract out at least some of those construction functions.
Which construction model will work best?
The fact is that the restructuring that has occurred in the telecommunications industry over the last two decades has left it without any one single player with the resources and integrated, end-to-end skills to undertake a project of this scale by itself.
Telstra has outsourced its civil works and hollowed out its construction workforce. The major contracting companies, for their part, are light on design and project management capabilities as the Strategic Review of the NBN last year found.
Meanwhile, on the ground, the sub-contractors who currently form the majority of the project’s workforce may not have all the skills appropriate to the new platform being rolled-out –or the previous one, if it comes to that.
The supply, supervision and coordination of the NBN workforce at all levels remains a major problem for the project – one that these two trials may shed further light on but are unlikely in themselves to solve.