Powertel announced in May 2005 it had contracted Huawei to provide DSL Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) equipment -- which sits in Telstra's telephone exchanges and provides DSL services to customers -- for the telco's ongoing DSL network rollout, which so far covers around 120 exchanges.
In December 2004 Powertel said it would add another 150 exchanges to that total by the end of 2005. But that target has not been met.
"We haven't put the Huawei DSLAMs in yet, we're still wrestling with some technical issues on them," the telco's managing director Paul Broad told ZDNet Australia this week.
Broad said the problem related to the way Powertel used some of its ISDN connections.
"It's just that the sort of thing we wanted to do, doesn't quite fit our model," he said. "We've got to change our model, and they can make some modifications to get it right."
But overall the Chinese vendor -- which has earned a reputation for winning deals based on its low prices -- has found favour with Powertel.
"We've found the Huawei guys very open and frank with us. We think there is a long-term relationship to be had with them and we want to have it," Broad said.
"I was up there in China back in November, and they're certainly working with us on [the technical issues]."
"They are doing our upgrades of our traditional network and that's all going terriffic, not an issue at all," he added.
Broad said the DSLAM issue was "not insurmountable", and pointed out other carriers like Optus were using Huawei's DSLAMs without any difficulties.
"We've visited others around the world that are using their gear without a problem," he said.
Powertel's network expansion has not halted completely though, and is progressing with Lucent technology in some areas. The telco is using Lucent's 'Stinger' DSLAMs.
"We use the Stingers, which we've got a lot of on our network. We're still rolling them out, and they're doing the job fine for us at the moment," Broad said.
And Powertel's wider network rollout is on track.
"The upgrades in our network were such that our MPLS network will be up and running by the middle of the year," said Broad, pointing out his own company's next-generation network (NGN) plans were closer to completion than Telstra's admittedly much larger ones.
"Telstra are saying two or three years away, we're actually doing it now," he said.
Although Broad is optimistic about his company's ongoing network rollout, he's concerned moves by Telstra could throw a spanner in the works.
"Really what's worrying us now is the ULL charges, that will hurt us a little," he said, referring to Telstra's desired price for rivals for Unbundled Local Loop (ULL) services, or in plain words access to Telstra's copper lines running between exchanges and customers' premises.
"But if you look at the whole market ... in a competitive sense it doesn't really hurt us that much," he said.
Another issue is getting access to Telstra's exchanges in the first place.
"We believe that Telstra slowing down access to exchanges is a problem for everybody," Broad said. "They're sort of queueing people up to get in and out of exchanges."
The nation's competition regulator warned Telstra back in March 2005 not to block rivals' access to its exchanges.
"It is imperative ... that Telstra's competitors have timely and efficient access to exchanges in order to enable them to roll-out service to the mass market," said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission at the time.