History in the making: connecting inner-city Sydney

Connecting historic inner-city suburbs in Sydney, like Glebe and The Rocks, requires different thinking for a whole new set of challenges…

During its time rolling the nbn™ broadband access network out across the continent, NBN Co has overcome many challenges. From extremes of weather to the tyranny of distance, and boring beneath rivers to connecting mountain-top communities.

Now, as we focus on connecting built-up inner-city areas in the home stretch of the build, it doesn’t mean things have necessarily become easier… we’re just overcoming a different set of obstacles.

No one is more aware of those challenges than Brendan Minogue, Senior Field Supervisor NSW Regional Deployment at NBN Co.

Minogue and his team have been gearing up to run a gauntlet of roadblocks impacting how we bring the Sydney suburb of Glebe into the fold.

Connecting Glebe

Among the complications in one of Sydney’s oldest suburbs include a high number of historic buildings; heritage-protected curbs, gutters and trees; and limited parking and access for work vehicles due to the narrow streets.

There’s also more council planning and approvals than usual; restrictive-sized footpaths and those heritage-protected curbs that make installing new pits and upgrading Fibre-to-the-Curb infrastructure difficult; and construction crews dealing with multiple utilities in a confined area.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the requirement for night works – carried out amid local council restrictions that mandate limited hours of works and noise levels – ensures construction work will take longer to complete than usual.

Says Minogue, “There are extensive planning and works around access, along with Health, Safety and Environment considerations due to large numbers of pedestrians and vehicles.

“For Field Services, it means a lot of our work is required out of hours and where it would normally take one staff member to do audits and inspections of build, it takes two or maybe three because of the requirement for extra guards due to pedestrians.

A Glebe street.
“These are just some of the issues and challenges with building within inner-city areas.”

Lessons learned

Historic: The Rocks.

Fortunately, having now completed much of the inner-city and CBD build in Sydney, Minogue says the business has learned a few valuable lessons along the way to help get the job done.

“Planning works in advance and engaging Council is a priority, as well as making sure residents are advised of works ahead of time – especially any taking place at night.

“Walking-out areas with our Delivery Partner prior to construction also ensures we can cut out any unnecessary build or use existing infrastructure.”

Planning ahead and engaging utilities that need to be on site when works occur, like gas, telecommunications and power, also help speed up construction.

While heritage issues in the current build in Glebe and other inner-city areas has meant NBN Co has had to think differently, Minogue and his colleagues will soon tackle one of the most historically significant districts in Sydney and the nation: The Rocks.

Respecting The Rocks

Dating back to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, and the epicentre of some of Sydney’s most ferociously fought preservation battles, today there are more than 100 heritage sites and buildings within The Rocks, including the area’s oldest house – Cadman's Cottage – built in 1816.

These facts alone mean history looms large over those attempting to connect the area to services over the nbn™ access network, while endeavouring to leave a minimal footprint on more than two centuries of history.

“One of the key issues in The Rocks is that Council requires our Delivery Partner to have archaeologists on site while civil works in certain sections are being done,” says Minogue.

“We are also limited in the sense of time frames and what we can excavate and what we can’t.”

One thing’s for sure: this important physical and architectural link to our beginnings as a nation will soon be connected to Australia’s exciting future via the nbn™ access network.

The Rocks.