WELLINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - Twenty-one companies have been asked to tender for the contract to build Australia’s high speed Internet network, the state-owned National Broadband Network Company said on Wednesday. The companies include the dominant phone provider Telstra Corp (TLS.AX) and some of the country’s largest construction companies such as Downer EDI (DOW.AX), UGL UGL.AX and Leighton Holdings LEI.AX.
The government has pledged A$43 billion ($37.52 billion) towards the project, which is aimed at revolutionising Australia’s generally slow and expensive Internet service.
It has said it will invest A$26 billion over seven years in developing the network itself.
The 21 companies have been whittled down from an original 45, and were the companies with the necessary specialisation and capacity to undertake the project, NBNCo Head of Construction Patrick Flannigan said. “The lead contractors will need all the resources and skills available to them to realise this project,” Flannigan said in a statement.
The tendering process for design and construction is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
On Sunday, the broadband firm struck a preliminary deal worth $11 billion with Telstra, which has agreed to gradually hand over its copper-based phone network which will be converted to high speed fibre-optic cables. [ID:nSGE65J02V] (Reporting by Adrian Bathgate; Editing by Ed Davies)