Fibre has a Bright future in WA

Western Power subsidiary Bright Telecommunications is ramping up its search for equity partners as it plans to expand its Perth optical fibre network to further homes and businesses. The telco currently uses its fibre network in Perth's central business district and some other areas to sell advanced communications services to large enterprises and residential customers.

Western Power subsidiary Bright Telecommunications is ramping up its search for equity partners as it plans to expand its Perth optical fibre network to further homes and businesses.

The telco currently uses its fibre network in Perth's central business district and some other areas to sell advanced communications services to large enterprises and residential customers.

But in the next several weeks, Bright will release an information memorandum to selected parties who responded to a previous expression of interest process focused around gathering funds for an extension of the network.

"The key thing for Bright is that we are still looking at getting an equity partner, to fund the rollout of a fibre to the home and fibre to the business type network," Bright's general manager John Jeremiah told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview yesterday.

"We will be releasing an information memorandum to the market ... inviting parties to submit a bid for the purchase of equity in Bright," he continued.

"What we are looking at is an investment, so that we can roll out broadband in the metropolitan area, but outside the central business district."

With customers like the Western Australian government, Alinta, BHP, the Western Australian Police, CSC and several universities it's certain that Bright's equity search will attract some interest.

But it hasn't always been plain sailing for the telco.

Western Power has been looking to sell Bright since February 2004, when a near disaster prompted the electricity utility to re-focus its efforts on its core business.

"My mandate was to go and sell Bright," said Jeremiah. "But in early January 2005, customers were actually approaching Bright for connecting up to our network."

Given Bright had also acquired the Perth fibre network of now Optus subsidiary Uecomm in 2003, those corporate-level customers had realised Bright's potential to provide extremely high speed communications services.

"We had a presence in every major high-rise building in the CBD," said Jeremiah.

The executive said this interest resulted in Bright greatly increasing its value in a very short time.

"Today what we've done is that we've focused primarily on the corporate and government market," he said.

Bright has extended its network to nodes in Kalgoorlie and Melbourne, and sees a great future in fibre to the home networks. Its current network passes around 30,000 homes in Perth.

When Bright's network was initially built early this decade, DSL was the flavour of the month for broadband, said Jeremiah.

"We do recall when we invited [vendors] Alcatel and Ericsson to put in the proposal for fibre to the home; They said fibre to the home was not the future, and DSL was going to be the future," he said.

"I have a white paper from Alcatel which said DSL is the future and sorry, we apologise that we can't give you a proposal for fibre to the home."

But with virtually every major telco in Australia currently examining the case to extend fibre cables from telephone exchanges out into neighbourhoods, fibre's day may soon be coming. "Now the tables have turned," said Jeremiah.

"We believe that fibre to the home and fibre to the business is the future," he continued. "Socially, we believe that this will enhance the lifestyles of the community, and also economic development as well, that's what I think the government is convinced of now."

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