Gallery: Building A National Network Has Always Been A Slow Process

Gallery: Building A National Network Has Always Been A Slow Process
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One of the biggest arguments surrounding the National Broadband Network (NBN) is over how quickly it can be deployed. A reunion taking place today of workers who built the first cable connection between Sydney and Melbourne reminds us that the process has never been speedy: that single project took five years to complete. Plus: vintage photo gallery of network construction 50 years ago.

Pictures: Telstra

Telstra today is hosting a 50-year reunion for seventy workers who helped lay the first coaxial cable between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. That cable enabled simultaneous TV broadcasts between the three cities, as well as direct (rather than operator-connected) phone calls.

Total planning for the project took five years, with cable construction in Germany taking over two years, while deployment ran from 1960 to 1962. 15,000 tonnes of cable were used across 960 kilometres. As Telstra’s announcement release explains:

The cable took five years to build with the teams laying the cable two to four feet (60cm-1.2m) below the earth’s surface, averaging five miles (8km a day). Two thousand plans were drafted by hand, 15,000 tonnes of equipment were hauled across the length of the route, with 3000 coaxial joints and 103 minor repeater stations built.

Both technology and rollout methodologies have improved since that time (the coaxial cable itself has since been replaced with fibre), and there’s a big difference in scope between that three-city connection and a network designed to potentially connect every building in Australia. Nonetheless, it’s a reminder that the Coalition pledge to ensure improved connections by 2016 is an ambitious one that can’t be realised without using lots of existing infrastructure. Given that effectively all bets are off until the NBN strategic review takes place, timing is really unpredictable at this point.

The other thing the gallery of photos below reminds us of? While we argue over download speeds and appropriate connection technologies, at some point it all boils down to ditch-digging.


    • No its better than the coalitions network, all the BRAND NEW copper mmmmm. I don’t think they would have gotten a very good sync on a 960km run though

      • These photos are of backbone infrastructure. Both the Coalition and Labor NBN plans are the same in that respect, they both use OFC.

  • As a telstra worker working in the manholes and coming across the repeaters I was astonished the engineering involved to house these type the cables and electronics. Yeah its about digging a good ditch but these ditches gave way to progress. The civils are the thick end of the wedge. I think it was Ashfield where I first saw the underground infrastructure.

    Anyone remember the syd melb 140Mb digital over coax system? I think it was Alcatel that was the vender for the terminals. Never worked. Dribble errors so no traffic was put on it. The NBN dribble over copper is about to come to the fore.
    We have been had.

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