Gearing up to meet Telecom challenge

Last updated 23:33 20/05/2008
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/The Press
Assembly of a Whisper telecommunications cabinet.

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Eaton Power Quality Company is gearing up to produce one telecommunications cabinet every 85 minutes for Telecom.

It is part of Telecom's $1.4 billion investment in the next three years in its network to enhance the performance of broadband.

The contract is worth $50 million over three years for United States-owned Eaton.

For the project, Eaton - formerly Swichtec - is hiring an extra 22 staff, many in engineering positions.

The Christchurch division of the multinational industrial company produces revenues of $US250m ($NZ328m) a year and exports much of its production.

Eaton is expanding its production from 90 cabinets a year to 1200. Now, it makes about one cabinet a day but it plans to get that to one every 85 minutes once in full production.

Eight local companies are suppliers to Eaton to meet the Telecom contract including Shape Technology which makes the cabinet.

The cabinets are mini-exchanges and the design challenge for Eaton has been to reduce their size and noise for suburban locations.

At full load connected to 360 customers, the cabinet uses only the same power as a one-bar heater - 1200 watts, and makes hardly any noise.

The broadband equipment in the cabinets - known as adsl2 plus - can deliver speeds of between 10 and 20 megabits a second.

Broadband equipment has been placed in telephone exchanges in many places in New Zealand but the performance of a broadband connection deteriorates the further a customer is from an exchange.

The cabinets will house broadband equipment and bring customers closer to the equipment improving the speed of the broadband service.

In Canterbury, about 450 cabinets are to be installed. Ed Beattie, the head of the cabinet project in Christchurch for Telecom said each cabinet had space for up to six other telecommunications players to locate their broadband equipment.

Under sweeping government regulation now being implemented, Telecom has been forced to open up its network to other players.

Chorus is one of the three businesses - the network business - formed from the split of Telecom under the regulations to boost competition in the telecommunications market.

Two cabinets have been tested at the beach suburb of New Brighton for 520 residents.

Chorus chief executive Mark Ratcliffe said the speed between the customers' home and the cabinet was 1000 times faster in New Brighton than before when many people were on dial-up internet connections.

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Ratcliffe said "cabinetisation" was one of the biggest logistical projects for Telecom in many years. Some 750,000 customers were expected to be disconnected from exchanges and reconnected to the 3600 cabinets spread from Cape Reinga to Bluff in the next three years.

Eaton produces power systems for telecommunications and was founded by Denis Chapman, one of the many Christchurch engineers trained at Tait Electronics under the late Sir Angus Tait.

 

- The Press

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