Telstra is shaping up to play a big role in the construction of the national broadband network, with negotiations on a fibre-to-the node pilot due to be completed within a month.
It would involve more than 300 node cabinet units, each capable of connecting about 300 homes and businesses to the NBN, with work to begin later this year.
If successful, Telstra's pilot could become one of Australia's biggest fibre-to-the-node rollouts and a blueprint for any increased partnership with Telstra in the construction of the NBN. Industry experts believe the deals to connect homes and premises to a fibre-to-the-node network across Australia could be worth $5 billion to $6 billion.
Sources close to the negotiations said it was still under way, which meant there was a chance of it not being completed. But they added that the expectation was that a deal could be signed as early as April with NBN Co's new chief executive, Bill Morrow, set to officially start work on Wednesday.
Telstra and NBN Co have run separate and smaller-scale fibre-to-the node trials since the Coalition won power in September.
Where the previous Labor government preferred to connect fibre to 93 per cent of Australia's premises, the Coalition wants to rely on fibre-to-the-node technology that runs fibre to streetside cabinets before switching to Telstra's existing copper network for the last few hundred metres. This saves time and money but delivers slower internet speeds.
The negotiations suggest the expectation from both parties is the resulting fibre-to-the-node network could act as a springboard for a large-scale fibre-to-the-node rollout from 2015 on. But NBN Co would remain open to non-Telstra companies working on the project.