Baby telco Elders gets Optus backup

Diversified services group Elders has backed its recent entry into the telecommunications sector with a new deal with the nation's number two telco Optus.Elders will now retail Optus's wholesale Internet (dial-up, broadband and satellite), long distance and mobile services, according to a joint statement issued this morning.

Diversified services group Elders has backed its recent entry into the telecommunications sector with a new deal with the nation's number two telco Optus.

Elders will now retail Optus's wholesale Internet (dial-up, broadband and satellite), long distance and mobile services, according to a joint statement issued this morning.

An Optus spokesperson was unable to immediately clarify if Elders would resell ADSL2+ services up to 20Mbps on the back of Optus's brand new broadband network, or if the company would be restricted to Optus's other offerings.

Beside this immediate impact, the partnership also goes much further.

The pair will jointly bid for government funding to deliver bush broadband under the AU$878 million Broadband Connect program.

In June the government called for proposals on how the money could be used to fund new broadband networks in regional Australia.

"The two organisations will seek to build infrastructure to deliver high bandwidth services," said the Elders/Optus statement. "The infrastructure will be owned by the partnership. Optus and Elders will still compete separately in the retail provision of these services."

"Elders involvement as a retailer follows its successful completion of trial programs at a number of its rural branches in 2005."

The two will go head to head with a number of other consortiums which have also arisen to try to attract the funding. For example, carriers Unwired, Austar and Soul have similarly partnered.

Les Wozniczka

In the statement, the chief executive of industrial group Futuris, which wholly owns Elders, said the company's rural clients were being neglected by the telecommunications sector.

"Telecommunications is a critical need for our clients, but it is an area which has been under-serviced," said Les Wozniczka.

"The Broadband Connect program has given us the opportunity to contribute to the resolution of what is a pressing need in rural Australia."

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