Telcos Optus, Macquarie Telecom, PowerTel, Primus, Internode, Soul and TransACT this morning outlined a proposal where they and potentially others would collectively fund the building of a new national high-speed fibre-optic telecommunications network that all telcos could access and use to sell broadband services.
The group sees a similar plan put forward by Telstra in November and currently being discussed between the heavyweight and the nation's competition regulator as a threat to competition in the Australian telecommunications market.
Although the rival group said Telstra would be invited to participate in this morning's proposal, a spokesperson for the heavyweight described it 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," the spokesperson told ZDNet Australia via e-mail.
They added the group of telcos wanted others to carry investment risks while they skimmed profits off the top.
"Their plan is like pitching a tent on top of a skyscraper, then demanding rent from all the tenants," they said.
Making reference to a previous proposal from SingTel subsidiary Optus under which Optus and Telstra would have jointly built a network, the Telstra spokesperson 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 telecommuncations seven ways," the Telstra spokesperson said.
Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan told journalists in a media briefing this morning that the proposal would help Telstra as well as its competitors.
"We believe what we're proposing will actually be better for Australia, and indeed for Telstra in terms of getting certainty around the process [of upgrading the nation's broadband infrastructure]," he said.