Basslink Telecoms has received a carrier licence from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and says its fibre-optic cable under the Bass Strait could be operational by the end of this year, but consumer action group Digital Tasmania is sceptical.
According to a spokesperson from Basslink Telecoms, the final step before the cable can start carrying data is the completion of negotiations between the Tasmanian government and Aurora — the company selected to commercialise the state's AU$30 million fibre-optic backbone.
Basslink Telecoms said it is optimistic of being able to reach an agreement before the end of the year.
Consumer action group Digital Tasmania, which has been set up to "get Basslink going" has announced its approval of Basslink Telecom's securing the licence, but is sceptical the cable will be operational in the time stated.
"We've been told this sort of time frame before," a spokesperson said. "It's a good step forward but there's nothing concrete," he continued.
When Basslink becomes operational, there will be three cables connecting Tasmania to the mainland, but the other two are operated by Telstra, which has raised questions of uncompetitive backhaul pricing.
Digital Tasmania is concerned that even when the new cable is lit up, competitive pricing may not result, with the possibility of a "cosy duopoly" forming.
It's easy for prices to stay high in a two-carrier environment, the spokesperson said: "Basslink hasn't given any guarantee that they are going to compete."
Digital Australia would like Basslink to show some sort of commitment to competitive pricing, the spokesperson said, adding that the region needed Basslink to be truly competitive, not "just pricing 10 percent lower than Telstra".
Basslink Telecoms feels that they have addressed this in their announcement, according to the spokesperson: "We understand and embrace the Government's target of achieving genuine price competition for broadband services in Tasmania and remain confident this can be delivered."
Tasmania-Melbourne backhaul is a regulated service according to the ACCC, and will remain so when Basslink goes live. "People would remain able to seek an arbitrated price from anyone offering transmission on the route," a spokesperson said.
Obtaining a carrier licence is a quick process with a low application fee of AU$2,200, Robert Johnston, ACMA manager telecommunication licensing and numbering section told ZDNet.com.au. Ongoing fees are graduated depending on revenues.
The Tasmanian government did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.