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Broadband Challenge rolls out with Smartlinx3

Broadband Challenge rolls out with Smartlinx3

The $24 million Broadband Challenge to speed the growth of fibre networks throughout New Zealand has taken a significant step forward with the launch of the Smartlinx3/Broadband Challenge project in the northern Wellington region.

Communications Minister David Cunliffe says the funding agreement is a milestone in rolling out the high-speed fibre networks that are critical for New Zealand's economic transformation.

“For New Zealand to remain internationally competitive, we must embrace and anticipate technological change," Mr Cunliffe said. "Faster broadband projects like Smartlinx3 allow for new and smarter digital applications to be developed to meet the needs of the community.”

Smartlinx3, based in Hutt City, Porirua and Upper Hutt, is one of 10 urban and rural funding projects to win funding in round one of the Labour-led government's Broadband Challenge, a key part of the government's Digital Strategy and drive to transform the New Zealand economy.

The $24 million Broadband Challenge Fund is to provide seed funding to improve the availability and quality of broadband Internet access. It aims to establish a series of urban fibre networks by 2009, and to develop broadband Internet access solutions for rural and poorly served communities.

“The Broadband Challenge applicants all went through a rigorous application process and the successful applicants demonstrated a high level of community support," Mr Cunliffe said.

"We are part of a global environment with the world in a transitional phase, moving from an analogue to digital world. Life, society, culture and economics are undergoing a digital transition. The Broadband Challenge provides an opportunity for communities and businesses to define their own future in dealing with these changes."

Smartlinx3 will receive funding of $2,372,625 to deploy an open-access, mixed fibre and wireless network in Hutt City, Upper Hutt and Porirua. The core of the network is intended to be fibre across urban and suburban areas, and will use wireless spectrum to deliver full community coverage.

This network will extend Smartlinx3’s existing network in the region. It will service tertiary and research institutions in the coverage area, as well as business and community organisations.

Broadband Challenge backgrounder

The Broadband Challenge is part of the Labour-led government's Digital Strategy, launched in May 2005, after extensive public discussion with businesses and industry, community and voluntary groups, health professionals, educators and researchers.

The consultation indicated that New Zealanders supported the government in its commitment to providing the country with affordable high-speed networking. The respondents said the high price and low speed of broadband was inhibiting growth in New Zealand.

Broadband uptake in New Zealand has been slow in comparison to many developed countries and it is vitally important for the future and prosperity of the country that this is reversed. The government is working towards increased competition in the existing telecommunications market through regulatory changes such as local loop unbundling.

The Broadband Challenge seeks to provide ready access to very high speed networking in our urban centres, and better and more affordable access in rural and underserved areas. It is a contestable fund intended to speed up the provision of affordable and competing broadband services to regional centres and underserved areas.

It provides $24 million in seed funding over four years to partnerships with achievable business plans and the proven ability to make it happen. Partnerships are expected to provide at least matching funding either in cash, or in terms of contribution of effort and assets.

The Broadband Challenge is made up of two inter-related development programmes:

• Broadband Challenge – Urban and Metropolitan Networks, where the objective is very high speed connectivity (At least 1 Gbit per second) for urban and regional centres.

• Broadband challenge – Remote and Under-served Communities, where the objective is to address the lack of affordable access of rural underserved communities.

Funds have been allocated, using a competitive application process, and the successful applicants were announced in September this year. The successful applicants all submitted strong applications that will help deliver the goals of the broadband challenge.

The successful applicants from the Urban and Metropolitan Networks are:

North Shore City in association with Vector Communications Ltd ($4,640,625)
Vector Communications, working with North Shore City Council, proposes to build a 38 km extension to their existing fibre network that will connect directly to schools, libraries and council offices in the North Shore region. Universities, hospitals and businesses will also have access to the network. The network is intended to be a pilot for similar proposals in the Auckland Region.

Canterbury Development Corporation ($4,218,740)
Canterbury Development Corporation (CPD) proposes the deployment of a metropolitan area network through Christchurch. The primary focus will be on the council, universities, schools, health and business tenants. The network will allow services include dark fibre as well as high bandwidth managed data, and services for community organisation, Internet service providers and local business.

Hamilton City Council ($3,290,625)
The Hamilton City Council proposes to improve and extend its fibre network which is currently used for inner city security. As such the Broadband Challenge has acted as a catalyst to join up existing fibre networks to make the best use of existing assets and will deliver cost effective broadband to schools, other educational institutions, health providers, council organisations and local businesses. The Hamilton Urban Fibre Network is made up of local authorities and government bodies that will own the network and lease it to a private entity – Lite-Up, who will operate and manage the network.

SmartLinx3 ($2,372,625)
SmartLinx3 is deploying an open-access mixed fibre and wireless network in Hutt City, Upper Hutt and Porirua. The core of the network is intended to be fibre across urban and suburban areas, and will use wireless spectrum to deliver full community coverage. This network will extend Smartlinx3’s existing network in the region. It will service tertiary and research institutions in the coverage area, as well as business and community organisations.

Nelson Marlborough Inforegion ($1,788,750)
The Nelson Marlborough Inforegion (NMI), a regional broadband enabling organisation, proposal is to expand fibre capability to the regions main population centres and to establish internet exchanges in Nelson (NIX) and Blenheim (MIX) to provide local and national interconnect to local high speed network users. The funding will be used to create a network operating company to set up and run the Internet exchanges and to create fibre links to connect Picton to Blenheim.

The Successful Applicants from the Remote and Under-Served Regional Applicants are:–

West Coast Development Trust ($600,000)
The West Coast region covers 550 km of mountainous and coastal land, with a population of 30,300. The West Coast Development Trust (WCDT) has been working successfully with Telecom on the Project Probe broadband rollout on the West Coast. They are seeking to further extend this Telecom network to.

Tuhoe Education Authority (500,000)
The Tuhoe Eeducation Authority is seeking to create a sustainable ISP business ( which will provide Tuhoe branded ISP services throughout New Zealand. The application also seeks to extend an existing broadband WiFi network to provide broadband access to all the TEA schools and surrounding Whanau in the area.

Waitakere City Council (granted $180,000) combined with the Wikarekare Trust in West Auckland
The communities proposed for coverage are beyond the reach of available broadband infrastructure in Waitakere City they include: Laingholm, Parau, south Titirangi, Bethells/Te Henga and Karekare. The technology proposed for the project is an "open standard" IEEE802.11A and B wireless and “WiFi” meshed network, providing initial data transfer rates of 256k, each way.

Te Pahu Community Network - Waikato 2020 communication Trust ($47,000)
Te Pahu is a remote village of approximately 1000 people 40 km from Hamilton.
The Te Pahu Community Trust will establish a small wireless rural broadband network. The proposal is for the installation of a backbone radio link from Hamilton to a hub at Te Pahu and wireless links to the surrounding community.

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