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NBN has purchased almost 30,000 kilometres of copper

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(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

The company responsible for deploying Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has almost doubled the total amount of copper it has purchased since October 22, 2017.

“As at 19 February 2019, NBN Co has purchased 29,460km of copper cable, which has typically been used for the link between existing pillars and new nodes.”, the company said in response to a Senate Estimates Questions on Notice published this week.

“A significant proportion of this figure is also due to FTTC network construction for short extensions of copper lead-in cables to the FTTC DPU location.”

NBN had previously disclosed that it had bought 16,600 kilometres of copper almost eighteen months ago.

The company also revealed that less than half of the premises in its fixed wireless areas had taken up such services, and fibre-to-the-node (FttN) uptake was tracking lower than the company needed to meet its financial goals.

“In Fixed Wireless areas, which have been [ready for service] for 18 months or more, the percentage of premises with at least one active service is 45.18 per cent,” the NBN said.

“Because there is no compulsory migration off legacy copper services in fixed wireless areas, people can choose to maintain a copper service either instead of, or as well as, connecting to fixed wireless.”

Despite the low uptake, the technology has still suffered from congestion.

At the start of the year, the NBN had given itself until September to have less than 1 percent of its fixed wireless towers suffer from congestion.

The company defined congestion as being a 30-day average busy hour throughput of under 6Mbps.

By the middle of the year, the NBN said it would be set to offer a best-effort fixed wireless service that it claimed would offer 60/20Mbps in non-busy periods. It also has plans to drop its top-tier 25-50/5-20 Mbps plan by the end of 2019.

In another question answered this week, NBN said it needed a take up rate of 73 to 75 percent to meet its financial targets, however in areas where FttN has been available and the old copper network is switched off, the uptake up rate has sat at 72 percent.

NBN also disclosed that between July 1, 2018 and February 28, 2019, 114,093 technician appointments were missed, with 35,546 being completed later on the same day.

“A missed appointment refers to where a technician did not attend the premises within the agreed appointment window, as per the service level schedule,” the company said.

In many of these cases, the technician turned up earlier or later than the stipulated time but completed the job on the day. The number also included some cases where the end-user was not in attendance or where bad weather restricted the ability to complete the job.

NBN further said its average monthly download per end user was 235GB at January, with the median monthly download being 125GB.

On February 19, NBN had 5936 employees and 663 contractors on its payroll, with 762 staff in its IT department, and 71 in its corporate affairs division, 30 of which were on its NBN local teams. The corporate affairs division was budgeted to cost AU$21.7 million for the 2018-19 financial year.

In the Australian federal budget delivered last night, the Regional Broadband Scheme charge that helped fund NBN’s loss-making satellite and fixed wireless services was slated to be cut from AU$10 a month to AU$7.10 and be indexed with inflation.

However, it is not clear how much of the Budget will be enacted, as the government is expected to call a May election this weekend.

In its most recent set of financials, NBN reported its half-year revenue had hit AU$1.3 billion, and announced a 65 percent improvement in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation, up from the negative AU$1.4 billion reported this time last year to negative AU$477 million.

Earlier this year, retailer Vocus said the variable nature of the CVC pricing model used by NBN was incompatible with the fixed rates paid by consumers and that the economics did not stack up.

Vocus said NBN pricing was “simply too high”, and it was cashflow negative after providing modems and backhaul.

Consequently, the company said it would focus on selling NBN only where viable and shifting towards fixed wireless and mobile solutions. Vocus pointed to non-NBN services being simpler with lower operating costs and 5G creating a path for business applications as reasons for the switch.

Related Coverage

Australian Budget 2019: NBN regional subsidy charge reduced

The subsidy charge to help fund the NBN’s loss-making satellite and fixed-wireless regional networks has been reduced from AU$10 to AU$7.10 a month.

Canberra kicks in AU$220m to regional telco program

The government will fund two more mobile blackspots rounds with AU$160 million, and a Regional Connectivity Program with AU$60 million.

TPG quarterly profit drops 76 percent after Huawei ban

While the mobile network abandonment brought down TPG’s Q1 results, the telco also made less revenue thanks to the broadband market erosion caused by the NBN rollout.

NBN partners with Cisco for business solutions and compensation

The two will combine on business solutions across connectivity, security, collaboration, and productivity, as well as a marketing campaign and a rebate program.

Software update takes out NBN satellite users

Remedy offered to users still affected is to power cycle modem and NBN network termination device.

Vocus getting out of NBN land grab to focus on fibre links and wireless

NBN is complex and economically unattractive, and retail will shift towards fixed wireless and mobile, the company has said.

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Biden EV plan “the largest mobilization of public investment” since WW2

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The US government plans to replace its fleet of vehicles with electric alternatives, part of a huge public investment in equipment that President Biden says will be the largest since World War II. The goal was announced today, as Biden discussed the Buy American Executive Order and strategies to strengthen American manufacturing and create jobs in the US.

“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles,” Biden said during the press conference, “which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, creating millions of jobs, a million autoworker jobs, and clean energy, and vehicles that are net-zero emissions. And together this will be the largest mobilization of public investment in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since World War II.”

Certainly, there’s no shortage of vehicles being used across the government’s various departments. Each year, those departments are required to submit records on owned, leased, and commercially leased vehicles in their fleets. For 2019, civilian agencies owned more than 158,000 vehicles, while military agencies owned more than 62,000 vehicles.

The biggest fleet, however, is used by the US Postal Service. In the 2019 figures, it reported owning more than 224,000 vehicles. Tallied across all the agencies, there’s more than 445,000 owned vehicles on the books, and more than 200,000 leased in some form, with total costs of around $4.4 billion.

Typically, domestic vehicles already far outweigh the use of foreign passenger vehicles and trucks in use by the US government. Indeed, of the roughly 645,000 strong fleet in 2019, only around 6-percent were foreign-made. However, should even a small percentage be replaced with electrified vehicles, that could represent a huge shift in emissions.

The current reporting does not break down the vehicles by drivetrain type – beyond a separate category for low-speed electric vehicles (LSEV) – so it’s unclear how many might already be battery-electric or hybrids.

Still, it’s only in recent years that there have been viable options for replacing mainstream vehicles with zero-emission alternatives, and even then some categories are still awaiting production EVs. Ford and Chevrolet are both preparing electric pickup trucks, as is Tesla, and several American automakers are working on electric SUVs and sedans.

Startups like Rivian and Canoo are developing both passenger cars and SUVs and electric delivery vehicles, while Ford has an e-Transit in the pipeline, an all-electric version of its best-selling van. Earlier this month, GM announced a new brand, BrightDrop, to focus on electric logistics.

“The dollars the federal government spends on goods and services are a powerful tool to support American workers and manufacturers,” the White House said today. “Contracting alone accounts for nearly $600 billion in federal spending. Federal law requires government agencies to give preferences to American firms, however, these preferences have not always been implemented consistently or effectively.”

Full details of today’s executive order are yet to be published in the Federal Register by the government.

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Arcimoto is planning a tilting electric three-wheeler and it sounds epic

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Get ready for the electric vehicle market to lean over, with Arcimoto announcing it’s acquired a tilting trike specialist to use the tech in future EV three-wheelers. Based in Oregon, Arcimoto currently offers all-electric vehicles for public and business use, with its FUV – or “Fun Utility Vehicle” – available to preorder from around $18k.

Today’s deal sees Arcimoto snap up Tilting Motor Works, which offers a leaning kit for motorcycles. Its TRiO system can adapt existing bikes, promising to keep their natural lean but adding stability with a second front wheel. It’s currently offered for Harley-Davidson, Honda, and Indian models, priced at $14k plus installation.

Now, TRiO will be used for future Arcimoto trikes. The system will allow the EVs to lean into corners for more engaging driving dynamics, as well as lock upright when at a stop. The extra front wheel aids in traction too, Tilting Motor Works says, as well as improving braking; the company will continue to offer its kits for traditional motorcycles as well.

Arcimoto’s current FUV supports two occupants, sitting one behind the other. It has a 75 mph top speed from dual electric motors, and a range of 102 miles of urban driving; the doors are detachable, and rather than a steering wheel inside there are handlebars with heated grips. Currently, the company is taking preorders in Florida and on the west coast of the US.

It’s not the only vehicle Arcimoto has in mind, however. Late in 2020, the company showed off its latest prototype, a three-wheeler it called the ROADSTER. Roofless, and with a chopped-down windshield, it promises a more traditional take on the electric trike segment.

Electric drive and three wheels is arguably where some of the most interesting experiments are taking place in mobility right now. Last month, for example, we took the ElectraMeccanica Solo EV out for a spin, a single-seat electric trike that aims to reboot commuting. Based on the fact that almost 90-percent of Americans typically drive alone, it trades cabin space and seating for much cheaper running costs.

What it doesn’t do, however, is tilt. For an example of that, you have to look to something like Toyota’s i-ROAD, a distinctive electric three-wheeler that could lean into corners according to how aggressively you steered. Offered in select locations in Japan, and part of Toyota’s aggressive electrification push for the next few years, the i-ROAD was never officially offered in the US.

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Lotus teases sports car future as Elise, Exige and Evora face the axe

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Lotus is preparing a huge shake-up, with the iconic British sports car company confirming it’s axing three of its most memorable models to pave way for an all-new line-up. 2021 will be the end of the line for the Evora, Exige, and Elise, Lotus said today, dropping a new teaser about just what is intended to take their place.

We’ve already seen one element of that plan, in the shape of the beastly Evija hypercar. Announced in mid-2019, it promised to tap electrification for its potency, something Lotus demonstrated in action at its public debut in October last year.

Not everyone will be able to afford – or even find a spot on the waiting list for – a $2m+ EV behemoth. For that audience, Lotus has confirmed a new series sports car range, with the Lotus Type 131 expected to go into prototype production later this year.

It’ll be built at the automaker’s Hethel, Norfolk facility in the UK, which will undergo a $127m+ investment and see around 250 more engineers and manufacturing recruits added to the payroll. Helping foot the bill are shareholders Geely and Etika, which took ownership of Lotus in September 2017.

You can’t accuse Lotus of not making the most of its outgoing range. The first-generation Elise made its debut all the way back in 1995, a new model for Lotus but epitomizing its ethos of reducing weight in the name of increasing engagement. Though never the most powerful sport car, it nonetheless carved out a lingering reputation across several generations for its purity behind the wheel.

The Exige, meanwhile, arrived in 2000. A coupe to the Elise’s convertible, it built on the platform with race-focused technology to maximize performance. Come 2008, the Evora gave Lotus an entrant for the super-sports sector, tempering some of the automaker’s notorious focus on paring back creature comforts with a more luxurious, GT-minded approach.

The Type 131 range – part of what Lotus is calling its Vision80 strategy – will include at least three new models, replacing the Elise, Exige, and Evora. “Our renowned team of engineers, designers and technicians who are working on the new cars are acutely aware of the legacy from the Elise, Exige and Evora,” Matt Windle, executive director of engineering at the automaker, says. “Indeed, many were around when Elise was being developed.”

Earlier in 2020, rumors suggested Lotus could reboot the classic Esprit name for a new model. The new Esprit, it was hinted, could use a hybrid V6 powertrain, combining gas and electric power, though unlike James Bond’s car it would be unlikely to turn into a submarine.

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