Telecom Exchange Tour

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Feb-2010 09:07

I had the opportunity yesterday of attending a Telecom Exchange tour hosted by Chorus & Telecom Wholesale. This included a visit to the Courtenay Place exchange here in Wellington, a look at a current Fibre To The Home (FTTH) deployment in Grenada Village and a look at a Whisper Cabinet that are currently being deployed nationwide as part of the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) cabinetisation program. It was a very interesting day with plenty to see and talk about. Since it's something many people would never get the chance to experience I took a few photos to share with everybody.


Our first stop was the Courtenay Place exchange. This is one of the two major exchanges in the Wellington CBD (the other being on Featherston Street).



Phone cable entering the exchange from the outside world



Fibre optic cable entering the exchange 



A room full of batteries in case of a power cut



And backup generator. There are two of these required to power the exchange.


P1030159 P1030161

P1030164 P1030162


A view of the MDF (main distribution frame) in the exchange and some close up photos of the different types of connections - ranging from the old solder type to more modern punch down blocks. The frame contains a "D" side and an "E" side - one is from the outside world and the other is from the NEAX switch. A cable is patched between both sides of the frame to provide service.



The fibre section of the exchange. Fibre enters the exchange and has to be patched in much the same way copper is.



Inside of a cable trays where the fibre is joined.




The Alcatel Lucent 7302 ISAM that provides ADSL/ADSL2+ broadband services from this exchange. This is the same hardware that is deployed in the new roadside cabinets.


P1030154 P1030157

Orcon and TelstraClear equipment in the exchange. Both provide ULL (Unbundled Local Loop) internet and voice services from this exchange.



Next up was a visit to Grenada Village to visit the single FTTH deployment in Wellington. This deployment uses the GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) standard. This deployment is in a new subdivision that currently only has a handful of active customers and there are approximately another dozen houses under construction at present. This cabinet is what is known as a "passive cabinet" - it does not require any power to operate. It is simply splitting the incoming fibre and acting as a simple patch panel. This cabinet has capacity for up to 288 houses.


In the photo above you can see the the yellow fibre that runs from each house back to the cabinet. The fibre at the top is currently unconnected.



The optical splitter (essentially just a glass prism) splits a single optical signal across 32 outputs. There is capacity in this cabinet for 9 splitters but only a single splitter is fitted at present due to the small number of customers.






The fibre then enters the tray where it is "patched in" and connected to liven up the connection to the house.



The underground pit where fibre from the exchange is connected to the cabinet. Spare fibre is available so the installation is future proofed.



There is no copper cabling deployed in this subdivision, every household requires a ONT (Optical Network Terminal) which turns the optical signal back to an electrical signal. The ONT provides a standard Ethernet output which connects to a router to provide internet access. The phone service is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and customers have the option of using VoIP handsets in their house or connecting regular analogue phones to an ATA (analogue telephone adapter) that converts the VoIP service to analogue. At present all internet and voice services are provided through WorldxChange Communications as Telecom Retail do not currently have a residential VoIP product in the marketplace.


The picture above shows a mock-up of the hardware that is typically being fitted in the home at present. This includes a Linksys router with built in ATA that allows you to connect analogue phones. It also includes a battery backup to ensure that phone service is still available in the case of a power cut.



Next up was a site visit to a working Chorus FTTN cabinet. These cabinets are brand new state of the art technology that are being deployed nationwide as part of the Chorus cabinetisation rollout. Approximately 1500 have currently been deployed nationwide out of a total of 3400, with the project due for completion towards the end of 2011. ADSL (and the forthcoming VDSL) deliver faster speeds the closer the customer is to the cabinet or exchange - because the customer can't be moved closer to the exchange the solution is to build these cabinets and move the hardware closer to the customer. These cabinets are connected back to a local exchange by fibre and copper, the fibre is used for backhaul for internet services and the copper is used to provide voice service from the existing NEAX switch in the exchange



Inside of the cabinet. On the left is the Alcatel Lucent 7302 ISAM that provides ADSL/ADSL2+ broadband. On the right is the MDF (main distribution frame) which contains copper cabling from the local exchange and from each nearby house or business. These are jumpered together to provide voice and broadband service to customers.



A close up look at the ISAM and cards


These cabinets were designed and built in New Zealand by Eaton in Christchurch and each cabinet is designed to serve to up approximately 300 customers. At present they only contain Telecom equipment but the space on the left is available for other telecommunications providers or ISP's to install their own equipment if required. As mentioned above all voice services are still provided by the existing phone exchange, however it is possible that in the future Telecom could install hardware in these cabinets to deliver voice services when the NEAX switches are retired. A voice card for the existing Alcatel Lucent ISAM could easily be installed and would connect to Telecom's core network using VoIP but would convert this to analogue so that existing phones in your home or business would continue to work as normal. The cabinets have a battery bank to ensure they work even during a power cut, and can be powered by a generator if need be during a prolonged outage.


A special thanks has to go to Chorus and Telecom Wholesale for organising such a great afternoon!

Other related posts:
Spark Paging network shutdown – the event nobody cares about? Not quite.
UFB voice, power cuts, copper invincibility and mainstream media FUD.
New Zealand’s growing BUBA problem (AKA I feel sorry for you if you’re on a Conklin)

Permalink to Telecom Exchange Tour | Add a comment (13 comments) | Main Index

Comment by BigHammer, on 25-Feb-2010 14:02

Great pictures Steve. The pictures inside the exchange bring back memories of my time with Telecom in the late '80s and early '90s working on fibre.

Comment by neop26, on 25-Feb-2010 15:01

Really interesting article. Good stuff with the pictures 2.

Comment by SCM, on 25-Feb-2010 15:39

Thanks for sharing the pics Steve, its awesome being able to see what is behind them steel doors ;)

Comment by n00dy, on 25-Feb-2010 16:08

That was very interesting. Always wanted to see that stuff but never had the chance. Thanks for the photos Steve

Comment by maverick, on 26-Feb-2010 10:03

Nice work Steve, good tour for those taht havn't seen the inside of an Exchange, I see our Mockup Photos gets a lot of Air time

Comment by jughead, on 26-Feb-2010 11:23


was it just me or did anyone else hear choirs of angels sing when they saw that picture!

Comment by Jughead, on 26-Feb-2010 11:37


any else here choirs of angles when they saw this pic?

Author's note by sbiddle, on 26-Feb-2010 20:43

You need to provide some updated photos Phil!

Comment by Foo, on 3-Mar-2010 12:09

Great photos Steve, thanks for sharing.

Comment by webwat, on 18-Apr-2010 00:20

Bit disappointed that Telecom are only using a bare-bones ONT for the test sites. There are ONTs around that provide the full home networking services, including POTS and TV. Anyway, its good to see the rest of it is being done properly. Hope they are connecting some of the fibre between OLT sites so they have redundant routes in case of backhaul fibre cut.

Comment by Markus, on 18-Jun-2010 14:27

Nice pics - Just a shame that an Aussie company is assembling the cabinets - hence all the profit and 90% of the product sourcing ends up overseas.

Comment by Markus, on 18-Jun-2010 14:47

Nice pics - Just a shame that an Aussie company is assembling the cabinets - hence all the profit and 90% of the product sourcing ends up overseas.

Comment by Skolink, on 15-Sep-2010 13:42

Great article!
I note that the Home Distrubutor mockup pictured wouldn't acutally provide any service in case of a power outage - the router isn't plugged into the backup battery (and neither is the VoIP device I assume).

Add a comment

Please note: comments that are inappropriate or promotional in nature will be deleted. E-mail addresses are not displayed, but you must enter a valid e-mail address to confirm your comments.

Are you a registered Geekzone user? Login to have the fields below automatically filled in for you and to enable links in comments. If you have (or qualify to have) a Geekzone Blog then your comment will be automatically confirmed and shown in this blog post.

Your name:

Your e-mail:

Your webpage:

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at