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By: MarkJ - 23 February, 2011 (6:18 AM)
fibre optic broadband developmenti3 group australiaThe i3 Group, which has come under pressure from an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (here) and appears to specialise in failing to deploy superfast 100Mbps capable fibre optic ( FTTH ) broadband ISP services (here), recently sold off its UK subsidiaries (H2O Networks, Fibrecity etc.) to a consortium led by its own ex-President and attempted to start afresh by shifting its focus to Asia (i3 Asia Pacific), America (i3 America) and Europe (i3 Europe) instead.

Sadly that idea appears to have gone a similar way to some of the firms old UK projects in Bournemouth and Dundee, with the Brisbane City Council in Australia scrapping their plans to work with i3 Asia because they are "unhappy with the progress of negotiations".

Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman, commented (ABC News):

"We have been talking to the i3 group in the UK about facilitating that this year. Unfortunately I have to say that in council I have called a halt to those discussions because we have been unhappy with the progress of negotiations with the i3 group.

We have other people who want to put offerings on the table to make this happen and we will now commence discussions to make this happen with them.

We have been concerned that i3 haven't delivered the information and material we required to properly assess whether we should sign a contract with them. We want to protect the interests of the city.

We are not going to proceed but we do want to proceed with other firms who have equally exciting offerings who believe they can make this happen."

The outcome will be of little surprise to anybody, especially given the huge fury over the firms apparently failed UK ambitions. Selling off its UK subsidiaries and taking a slightly adjusted name for Australia was never going to be enough to avoid all of the underlying concern with how i3 operates.

The situation was very different last October 2010, when the i3 Group proudly announced their ambition to make "Brisbane Australia's first Fibrecity with all homes [500,000 households] and businesses having access to 100mb per second broadband within four years".

Elfed Thomas, CEO of i3 Group, said (October 2010):

"The key to successful rollout of fibre to the home is cost. As Fibrecity networks are a commercially funded project, costs are critical. Our suite of technologies allows the cost per home to be up to 60% less than traditional build. We have completed a survey of the assets in Brisbane and conclude that these savings are realistic".

The original plan was for work on the Brisbane fibre optic network to start in early 2011. This would have used the Group's "proven low cost methodologies", such as the use of existing underground sewers and micro-trenching to lay the fibre optic cables. Neither of which have gone according to plan in the UK.

Officially the i3 Group still expects to have connected "almost one million UK homes with broadband capable of supporting speeds of up to 1Gbps on an open access wholesale basis" by the end of 2013. In reality we're still waiting for a sign that any of the planned work will be able to continue, which now looks highly unlikely.
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