Improving Australia’s Infrastructure Policy
5 March 2009
One unexpected outcome from all the work involved in preparing the Market Clarity Telecom Infrastructure Atlas for publication was how well it illustrates the relationship between telecommunications infrastructure and other infrastructure – the way that systems such as backhaul fibre networks follow pre-existing corridors wherever possible.
This is, of course, anecdotally known throughout the industry. But the difference between an anecdote and an analysis is that you can use the analysis to inform public policy.
We know that whether the infrastructure is fibre or copper, there are good reasons for that infrastructure following corridors such as road, rail, or electricity supply. Eventually, the same corridors serve the same customers. The people who drive to their home in a new housing development turn on the electricity that follows the same road when they reach their home, and use broadband delivered over cables following the same route.
In addition to demographics, there are land easements to consider: it’s simpler for an infrastructure owner to follow public land rather than to establish easements (through properties), negotiating with each landowner along the way. The same logic follows for larger-scale infrastructure which generally follows highways and roads between cities and towns.
While this is clearly a pragmatic advantage, it has yet to be fully exploited in public policy, even where the public policy implications could be exploited easily and at low cost.
For example, why not implement a uniform, national development requirement for projects such as new major rail or road corridors that includes the installation of fibre ducting at the construction stage?
The most obvious objection is likely to be cost, but in reality the cost of such an inclusion would be trivial. For example, take the Pacific Highway’s Ballina Bypass, a 12.4 Km upgrade project now under construction, with an estimated completion cost of $640 million – more than $53 million per kilometre.
In that context, the acquisition price of fibre conduit isn’t a problem at all: a 50 mm fibre conduit can be purchased for between $8 and $9 per metre, a 100 mm fibre conduit for between $16 and $17 per metre – and these are one-off prices, without considering bulk discounts. So even at list price, 100mm conduit could be purchased for the Ballina Bypass for around $210,000. Installation during the normal civil works of a road-building project would be an almost-negligible incremental cost in the context of the entire project.
The map above illustrates the designated route of the Ballina Bypass (green). The major backhaul fibre owners did not include Ballina in their routes, preferring instead to head north from the larger city of Lismore. This would inhibit the backhaul choices available to ISPs who wanted to offer services in Ballina. As this map shows, the only backhaul technology with a significant presence in the city is microwave.
It is no coincidence that all of the exchanges shown in this image only house ADSL infrastructure from one carrier.
The provision of ducting as part of the highway construction would not, in isolation, bring radical change to the industry. However, given that road construction and upgrades are a major target in current government stimulus packages, the long-term outcome would be additional infrastructure that would enhance what is already available to the telecommunications industry, and increase the financial viability of projects in lesser populated areas.
Moreover, there would be ample opportunities for cost recovery. For a carrier, the cost of civil works is a huge impost on any new fibre project. Civil works are a relatively low cost in the country, but in the city, the necessary council approval and make-good fees can take the cost of a new fibre trench past $2,000 per metre (which is why duct access is a declared service). A pre-existing conduit would be extremely attractive to any carrier looking at a new fibre deployment, especially if that conduit is owned independently of the telecommunications industry.
The same logic also applies at a local government level. New developments need roadworks, and even though these works involve significantly lower costs than a dual carriageway highway diversion, they are still sufficiently expensive that a fibre conduit would add only an incremental cost to the project, with the opportunity for cost recovery from the industry – and better local infrastructure.
With the co-operation of state and local governments — perhaps through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) or the Online Communications Council (OCC) — the federal government could provide a significant long-term benefit to the telecommunications industry, by making appropriate and open fibre ducting a planning requirement for suitable developments, and to the infrastructure owner who will have additional opportunity to recoup its development costs.
Market Clarity would love to hear from you. If you have comments or feedback on our infrastructure proposals, drop us an e-mail.
It is with a great deal of pride that Market Clarity announces the launch of the Australian Telecom Infrastructure Atlas.
One of the challenges in implementing a cross-sector infrastructure view is that each project – road, rail, water and telecommunications – falls into different government departments or different portfolios, at the Federal, state, and perhaps even local levels. In addressing this challenge, Market Clarity has sought to provide a holistic view, rather than offering only views of one infrastructure type.
The Atlas is based on Market Clarity’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Database and includes 341 maps showing the locations of, and where appropriate coverage of:
- Major Backhaul fibre routes;
- Major Backhaul microwave paths;
- Correlating maps of population, road and rail infrastructure; and
- Fixed broadband access infrastructure (ADSL, SHDSL and fixed wireless broadband).
Customers can purchase the entire Australian Telecom Infrastructure Atlas 2009, or they can select from infrastructure maps showing national, state, outer metro capital city, or inner metro capital city views. The Australian Telecom Infrastructure Atlas also includes a variety of maps showing the relationship between different infrastructure types.
Customers can see the inter-relationship between backhaul fibre, microwave, DSL and fixed wireless broadband, as well as the visualisation between these infrastructure types and population density. The presence of non-telco infrastructure such as road and rail networks on the Atlas maps allows one to gain a holistic view of Australian infrastructure.
Market Clarity has also produced a series of “DSL Reach” maps showing the 1 Km, 2 Km and 3 Km footprints for DSL infrastructure at the inner metro and outer metro scales.
The “DSL Reach” maps clearly identify broadband blackspots in Australia’s capital cities.
“The Australian Telecom Infrastructure Atlas is a unique resource that provides customers with the first-ever complete snapshot of Australia’s telecommunications networks”, says Shara Evans, founder and CEO of Market Clarity. “The Atlas represents the results of Market Clarity’s three-year investigation of telecommunications infrastructure across the country, and is a core part of Market Clarity’s ongoing research program.”
The Atlas should prove a valuable resource for regulators, policy decision-makers, government departments, councils, carriers, civil engineering firms, corporates, vendors and other industry stakeholders.
Map prices start at $550 for individual maps. For more information, please contact us.
The most remote areas of West Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory are home to around 1,200 people in a landmass that, at more than 1 million square kilometres, is more than four times the size of the United Kingdom. That’s a real challenge in telecommunications service delivery!
Come and see Market Clarity at the following events:
- ATUG 2009, 13 March 2009
- CommsDay Summit, 31 March – 1 April 2009Market Clarity’s CEO Shara Evans will be a speaker at the CommsDay Summit 2009, to be held at Swissotel in Sydney on 31 March 2009 and 1 April 2009.
- CeBIT Australia, 12-14 May 2009Market Clarity’s CEO, Shara Evans will be a speaker at the Broadband Access conference at CeBIT. She will be presenting key insights from Market Clarity’s Telecom Atlas in Stream Two: Strategic Communications – Infrastructure, Policy and Practices.Senior Market Clarity staff will also be taking part chairing sessions in the Infrastructure, Policy and Practices stream, and the Business Ready Communication Solutions stream.