Alcatel slams rival fibre proposal

Summary:Network vendor Alcatel has scorned a proposal floated by Telstra's major competitors that would see the nation's broadband infrastructure cooperatively upgraded. Several weeks ago Optus, Macquarie Telecom, PowerTel, Primus, Internode, Soul and TransACT outlined a proposal where they and potentially others would collectively fund a new national fibre-optic broadband network that all telcos could access.

Network vendor Alcatel has scorned a proposal floated by Telstra's major competitors that would see the nation's broadband infrastructure cooperatively upgraded.

Several weeks ago Optus, Macquarie Telecom, PowerTel, Primus, Internode, Soul and TransACT outlined a proposal where they and potentially others would collectively fund a new national fibre-optic broadband network that all telcos could access.

But while the proposal has since gained the interest of others such as iiNet and Telecom New Zealand, Alcatel is continuing to back the single telco build model currently being discussed between Telstra and the nation's competition regulator.

Telstra's model would see Alcatel supply the telco with potentially billions of dollars of equipment.

"It would be one hell of a job," Alcatel's global president and chief operating officer Mike Quigley said of the rival proposal during a lunch hosted by consultant KPMG today.

"Networks are already exceedingly complex ... services are too interwoven," he continued.

"To think that we could do this, fast, with a consortium of companies ... it would be awfully difficult," he said. "It's not the way I've seen it done anywhere in the world."

Among the audience were representatives from the Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) as well as the Labor party, carriers, vendors and user groups.

Quigley encouraged the government to regulate the telecommunications industry with a "light touch", saying increased regulatory intervention in the sector worried him.

"Nobody's saying that they need to have investment certainty -- it's a risky business," he said.

"But networks won't be built without regulatory certainty," he added, citing examples from the United States.

The Alcatel executive said it was "not simple and straightforward" to separate telcos' wholesale and retail arms, as the government was currently doing with Telstra.

Such a model had yet to be proven, he said, and it was likely that smaller telcos would not invest in infrastructure as long as they could buy wholesale services from a larger telco.

The group of seven telcos behind the rival fibre proposal are, however, still pushing ahead with plans to put a detailed case to the government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Financial advisors have reportedly been appointed to assist with the proposal.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government : AU, Optus, Telcos, Telstra

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