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Fibre laid as part of Queensland’s massive CopperString 2.0 high-voltage transmission line could open up new opportunities for the state government backed backhaul provider. “Absolutely it would be of interest for us once it gets the tick of approval,” QCN Fibre chief executive Derek Merdith told CommsDay. The $1.5 billion, 1100km overhead line will extend the national electricity grid from Townsville across to Mount Isa.

Merdith said that QCN’s charter is “capacity, coverage and competition,” and the backhaul path between Mount Isa and Townsville is currently only served by Vocus.

“We will investigate the chance to jump on the back of CopperString to run another backhaul path back out there,” Merdith said, though he added that “it’s still early days” for the government-backed electricity project and there wasn’t yet any formal engagement between QCN and CuString Pty Ltd.

The state government has announced it is fast-tracking support for the CopperString project, which will stretch from a substation on the Ross-to-Strathmore transmission line south of Townsville to a Cloncurry substation, and from there run to Mount Isa.

A project overview lodged as part of the environmental impact assessment process notes that it will include optical fibre network capability.

CopperString is expected to lower energy costs for Queensland’s North West Minerals Province.

“The potential wider economic benefits from unlocked private investment are modelled at over 3500 jobs in North Queensland and $79 billion economic uplift over 30 years,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The government funding is conditional on project milestones. Last year, it also committed $1.18m towards helping develop the Copperstring 2.0 business case.


Article in Communications Day – 26 May 2020 – Reporter: Rohan Pearce