The Regional Backbone Blackspots Program (RBBP) was an Australian Government initiative with the specific objective of providing competitive wholesale backbone services to underserved regional markets. Nextgen Group (as Nextgen Networks, now Vocus Communications) won the role to design, construct, manage, operate and maintain these new backbone transmission links on behalf of the Australian Government.
Service locations are set out in accordance with the high level map as below. Products include transmission, IP and co-location services suitable for wholesale backhaul purposes.
RBBP services offered by Vocus Communications on open and equivalent terms and conditions to the market as part of strict contractual obligations with the Australian Government. In practical terms, this means that Vocus Communications cannot obtain an advantage when directly selling its own RBBP services to entities other than wholesale customers. The Agreement with the Australian Government defines wholesale customers as Carriers, Carriage Service Providers, ISPs, Systems Integrators, Broadcast Transmission Providers and Utilities.
As part of its National Broadband Network (NBN) commitment, the Australian Government allocated up to $250 million in funding to improve backbone transmission market outcomes to a number of priority ‘blackspot’ locations. In July 2009, the Commonwealth issued a Request for Tender (RFT) to build, operate and maintain backbone transmission links under the Regional Backbone Blackspot Program (RBBP) to six priority locations:
- Geraldton, Western Australia
- Darwin, Northern Territory
- Emerald and Longreach, Queensland
- Broken Hill, New South Wales
- Victor Harbor, South Australia
- South West Gippsland, Victoria
Following the conclusion of a competitive tender process, Nextgen Group (as Nextgen Networks) was selected to build, operate and maintain almost 6,000 kilometres of new fibre network assets. Nextgen Group also made a substantial financial contribution to the RBBP. Contracted to build the RBBP network on behalf of the Australian Government, it developed core features of the backbone transmission network incorporating:
- More than 100 service ready Points of Interconnect ultimately benefiting almost 400,000 regional residential and business customers;
- Provision for future access points at approximately every 10 kilometres along each backbone route;
- Use of highly scalable Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) optical fibre based transmission technology providing at least an initial 10 gigabits total trunk capacity on any portion of the network, with incremental upgrades able to meet demand;
The offer of a full range of transmission and associated services for access seekers; including:
- Managed optical fibre services;
- Managed wavelength services (STM16 and 64, Ethernet 1G and 10G);
- Carrier managed leased line services (SDH);
- Carrier managed Ethernet services;
- Interconnection services;
- Co-Location services;
- Data centre facilities; and
- Wholesale Internet access services.
- Connectivity is provided to the nearest capital city and/or Sydney on all RBBP routes; and
- Services are protected through physical diversity or active systems.
Vocus Communications offers wholesale services using the RBBP network assets on an open and equivalent basis, enforced through contractual terms and the funding of the agreement with the Australian Government.
The network design, technical features and commercial arrangements for RBBP have been established to extend the service reach and business opportunities for a wide range of communications industry operators. Construction activities commenced in February 2010. All infrastructure links associated with the RBBP routes were completed within 18 months from this time. Shorter routes within the network were delivered even earlier.
The design and construction activities were undertaken by partner company Visionstream.
This initiative was made possible with the support of the Australian Government’s National Broadband Network Regional Backbone Blackspots Program.