The federal broadband department had one message for Australian telcos today: stop obsessing about who is going to build the planned AU$4.7 billion national broadband network and start getting ready to deliver services and market it to customers.
The Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is currently overseeing a tender process which will see the AU$4.7 billion in funding handed over to one of more parties to build the network, with contenders including virtually all of Australia's telcos in various groupings.
But the department's deputy secretary Abul Rizvi told a Sydney conference today the matter of who would build the network was beside the point. "Never mind debates about who will build it or operate it — we will all be using it," he said.
"What does the general public know about these developments and the roll-out of the national broadband network? Not as much as it should or needs to I would suggest," Rizvi continued. "Currently the media debate over the commercial process is overshadowing the potential of the network."
According to Rizvi, Australians weren't as ready to take up the services the network will offer as they should be.
Telcos needed to be marketing the services to customers so there would be high levels of take-up when the services were eventually made available, he said: "When your product offerings come online, you want to preach to the converted. You will want instant recognition for your service, your downloadable content, your integrated media."
"They are your customers, your clients... It is time to start preparing the Australian economy and Australian society for a world after the roll-out."
Dr Tony Warren, Telstra's executive director of regulatory affairs, agreed with Rizvi. "We really do need to be starting to talk about ... why customers should be getting on it," he told the conference.
The executive said that although many Australians have jumped on the high speed broadband bandwagon there were still people who doubted the need for speed. "There's doubt on how many people will move, when they'll move and how much they'll pay for it," he said.
Stay tuned for breaking ZDNet.com.au telecommunications coverage, including video interviews with key participants at today's Informa broadband conference in Sydney.