Rebel alliance adds heat to fibre fire

A group of nine telcos annoyed about Telstra's plans to build a national fibre network has stepped up its lobbying efforts to convince the government and competition regulator of the folly of Telstra's plans. Telstra is currently in discussions with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about the terms under which it would build the network, which would bring high-speed broadband to four million addresses.

A group of nine telcos annoyed about Telstra's plans to build a national fibre network has stepped up its lobbying efforts to convince the government and competition regulator of the folly of Telstra's plans.

Telstra is currently in discussions with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about the terms under which it would build the network, which would bring high-speed broadband to four million addresses.

The nine telcos -- AAPT, Internode, iiNet, Macquarie Telecom, Optus, PowerTel, Primus, Soul and TransACT -- today released a working paper attempting to show how their own alternative proposal would better serve the Australian public.

In a statement issued today, the group claimed the paper, prepared by consultants Dandolo Partners and the Allen Consulting Group, highlighted four "fundamental problems" relating to Telstra's fibre to the node or FTTN proposal:

  • The network would reach less than half of Australians, creating a two-tiered system for broadband access
  • It would establish a network where Telstra is a monopoly supplier of FTTN services
  • It would "seriously damage" currently flourishing competition based on the existing copper infrastructure
  • It would enhance Telstra's capacity to sabotage its competitors due to Telstra having the ability to "degrade the quality of service offered by its competitors who gain access to its infrastructure"

Seven of the nine telcos have previously outlined a rival FTTN plan under which they, Telstra and potentially others would jointly fund and build such a network.

But the rival plan requires heavy cooperation from Telstra, and the telecommunications heavyweight has indicated it is unwilling to play ball.

Telstra has previously described the rival plan as "a pick-pocket plan to rip-off Telstra shareholders and taxpayers".

"Together these companies are bigger than Telstra, yet they want to risk our shareholders' savings, not their own capital, to build their own fibre network," a Telstra spokesperson said in April when the rival plan was first publicly proposed.

Making reference to a previous proposal from SingTel subsidiary Optus under which Optus and Telstra would have jointly built a network, the Telstra spokesperson said Optus was like a broken record.

"It's Groundhog Day again for SingTel Optus -- its at least the third time SingTel Optus has suggested this, but now they want to cut their proposed minor investment in Australian telecommunications seven ways," they said.

The rival plan will be unveiled in full detail within a fortnight, the rebel group said today.

The complete Dandolo Partners and Allen Consulting Group working paper can be found here.

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