A factory tucked away in the industrial area of Cromer is making world-leading communications cables.

Cromer-based company Prysmian Group has been awarded the contract to manufacture specialised fibre-optic cables for Telstra’s new intercity fibre network.

Cromer company connects country

The unassuming factory (image above) at Thew Parade, Cromer, has a long history of manufacturing high-quality communications cables. Recently announcing the decision for Prysmian to manufacture the new state-of-the-art cables for the new network, Telstra InfraCo CEO Brendan Riley (main image, right) said the companies had a close association for over 50 years.

Brendan Riley

Brendan Riley

“This was a PMG [Post Master General] plant in the 1960s. It was formed by the PMG, which then went on to become Telecom. It was created to build the manufacturing facilities for the copper cable for the company, and for the nation.

“Progressively over time, as Telstra was looking to focus on its core business, it divested the facility and Prysmian picked it up. Since that occurred, which I believe is the late 70s or early 80s, they’ve been manufacturing Australia’s copper cable and fibre-optic cable needs.

“As the Telstra volumes started to roll down, volumes from the rest of the industry started to pick up. Then of course, we had the NBN [National Broadband Network] project, and now we stand here on the next big major infrastructure build for digital infrastructure for the country, which is what we’re doing with the intercity fibre project,” said Mr Riley.

Cromer company connects country

Mr Riley said that working with a local manufacturer allowed Telstra to collaborate on key design elements of the fibre cable to build the most robust network possible.

“There was a lot of collaborative work that needed to take place between the glass supplier Corning, the manufacturer Prysmian, and ourselves so we could get the design right.

“We want the biggest possible rolls of fibre, so we can continuously deploy through the ground with ease. It’s about weight, and it’s about the fewest number of joins. Fewer joins mean a better performing fibre-optic network,” explained Mr Riley.

Cromer company connects country

Telstra CEO Vicky Brady (image above, right) joined Mr Riley at Prysmian’s Cromer factory to announce a new production line to manufacture 14,000km of the specialised cable.

Vicky Brady

Vicky Brady

“This is a major milestone when you think about the relationship we’ve had [with Prysmian] over such a long period, to be officially commencing the lines that are supporting the fibre production here in Australia.

“Today, Telstra InfraCo has around 250,000km of fibre-optic cable running across the country. It supports high-speed, high-capacity connectivity across the major population centres here in Australia.

“A lot of that cable, particularly the big intercity routes, were built more than 25 years ago. The fibre that is getting produced here, and that we will lay in the ground, will set up Australia in terms of supporting the productivity needs across the country for at least the next couple of decades,” said Ms Brady.

Cromer company connects country

“Initially we announced five routes of the intercity fibre build which is under construction, then late last year, we announced a further five routes. That totals nearly 14,000km of brand new, state-of-the-art fibre, going into the ground across Australia.

“In terms of the economic benefit of this, the estimates show by 2028, that digital technologies will likely contribute $315b to the Australian economy. If you’re going to achieve that, you’ve got to be connected.

“This infrastructure is absolutely foundational to that, and it is getting built right here in Australia, right here in this factory,” said Ms Brady.

Cromer company connects country

Prysmian Oceania and SE Asia CEO Hama Shroff (image above) said Telstra’s decision allowed them to add new manufacturing lines to their factory at Cromer.

“This marks a major milestone in our longstanding partnership with Telstra. We officially commence the production of new lines to support Telstra InfraCo’s intercity fibre network project.

“This is a nation-building project. By the time the project rollout is complete, in this factory we will have consumed five million fibre kilometres, and turned them into cable that equates to 40,000 cable kilometres.

“We are talking about a huge scale for this project. The challenge is not just for manufacturing this volume, but also for Telstra with installation,” said Mr Shroff.

Cromer company connects country

“Having local manufacturing capability and capacity on the back of the investment will provide Telstra with maximum flexibility and responsiveness to make this rollout successful.

“We cherish our long and valued partnership with Telstra over many decades. Together we pool resources, maximising our skills and technology to identify, design and develop more sustainable world-class fibre-optic cables designed for the harsh conditions in Australia.

“On the back of this project, Prysmian has invested $7m, contributing to the Australian tech industry and also creating jobs here on the Northern Beaches,” said Mr Shroff.

Cromer company connects country

The new high-tech production lines are now in operation at the Cromer factory, producing optical fibre cables that are 59 percent smaller and 54 percent lighter than the design previously used. The new design will also save 8,000 tonnes of plastic during production.

When complete, the new intercity fibre network will support data transfer speeds up to 650 gigabit per second (Gbps), six times higher than current rates, with two separate networks offering a fully redundant network design.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate

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