A Queensland-based open access aggregated network vehicle is targeting the Gold Coast and Bundaberg as the first markets for its vision of wholesale-only backhaul to place regional centres on a par with major cities.
Open Infrastructure Group is pushing the Gold Coast Connectivity Project and the 10 GigaBerg projects respectively and is the brainchild of two industry professionals with extensive experience in bespoke network deployment, Luke Baker and Matthew van Hecke.
Baker told CommsDay: “Our mission is to build high capacity, open access, whole- sale only networks, and enable our partners to deliver the best, the best services possible. We don’t want to be selling directly to end users themselves.”
OIG’s focus presently is on Queensland, with the Gold Coast and Bundaberg projects prominent on its agenda. “All up we’ve got about somewhere in the range of $600- 700 million worth of projects under consideration for what’s from concept to feasibility stage,” Baker said. “OIG grew out of the frustration of the current constraints in the marketplace.”
Baker said the vision for the company was inspired by the Chattanooga, Tennessee municipal broadband network. Beginning a decade ago, the local power company built a gigabit network that has transformed a deserted downtown into a major regional tech hub. For OIG, the projects on the drawing board are primarily backhaul, Baker said, although there are distribution elements to some.
“Even in a place like Bundaberg that has three backhaul players there’s still a big disparity between where that capacity is available and how competitive that backhaul pricing is so without key aggregation nodes within these areas that are aggregating distribution and last mile demand and matching it with a backhaul capacity, you can’t really level or even begin to level the playing field,” Baker said. This makes it prohibitive to deliver metro grade products and prices, he added.
As far as the Gold Coast is concerned, Baker sees it as an underserved market but one with great opportunity given the City Council’s investment in a major fibre loop as well as its proximity to major intercapital routes. Baker said OIG is not ready to talk about the project in great detail yet but it sees an opportunity to build connectivity be- tween a local datacentre and Brisbane, 80km to its north. “We’re also looking at sort of landing an international submarine cable on the Gold Coast connected into that data-centre,” he revealed, although he would not elaborate on details. He did say however it would provide meaningful diversity for the Sunshine Coast cable landing.
QCN PLAYS A ROLE: Baker also said that the QCN Fibre network would play an important role in enabling its plans: QCN is the wholesale fibre trunk network launched by the Queensland network using existing state fibre infrastructure. “They really got a fair bit of momentum behind them now and, and we definitely see them as enabling a lot of what we’re trying to do in regional areas. QCN was actually the catalyst for my thinking behind the 10GigaBerg project,” Baker said. One place where OIG could play a supplementary role is in bringing that fibre capacity into downtowns where presently it might terminate at electricity substations on the outskirts of towns.
Baker acknowledges that the big four Tier 1 telcos in Australia already offer whole- sale backhaul products. “But when you do have your wholesale and your retail, there’s always a temptation, right? If your whole of company bottom line is dependent upon cornering a market and you can increase your shareholders’ value by cornering the market, the temptation’s always there. We are wholesale only. We do not have a retail division. I don’t want to be trying to sell little bits of bandwidth to everybody. I’d rather go and take one group of people out to ten dinners to sell them a big chunk of bandwidth. So that’s our mission from the get go and we’re not even going to give our- selves the temptation to be retail and they, because at the end of the day, if we do go down that route, we’re going to start eating our customers’ lunch and that’s never gonna end well.”
Article in Communications Day – 5 May 2020 – Reporter: Grahame Lynch