When is broadband not broadband? When it's Next G

Summary:In telecoms, Telstra is no 800 pound gorilla. It's an 800 pound colic-ridden infant, irritably throwing its toys out of the pram when it doesn't get its own way.

In telecoms, Telstra is no 800 pound gorilla. It's an 800 pound colic-ridden infant, irritably throwing its toys out of the pram when it doesn't get its own way.

Whether you agree with what the government's been doing on broadband policy or not, it's become a hot electoral issue -- things are definitely moving. There's a fibre rollout hopefully coming to urban areas, a WiMax deployment for the bush and for everyone else, there's the Broadband Now Web site: a site devoted to showing those in Australia's remotest areas how they too can get connected by whatever means possible.

The whole point of the site, according to Helen Coonan et al, is to give those not in the know about their broadband options a list of providers who meet government criteria on price, speed etc (quite what's the point of an Internet site for those who don't have broadband to start with is beyond me, but let's gloss over that for the moment).

Initially, when the site was set up, Telstra's BigPond ISP didn't make the list as it didn't meet the criteria set down by the government: a 512Kbps download speed; a 128Kbps upload speed; a 1GB monthly data allowance; and a total cost including connection fees of not more than AU$2500 over three years.

Telstra had a word with the government about the omission. The telco didn't like being missed off the who's who list. They deserved to be there too, dammit, they said.

"They [the Department for Communications] spent the last two days telling people it is Telstra's fault because we do not have a service that fits their arbitrary definition of a metro comparable service. The department's convoluted criteria for 'metro comparable' services excludes basic broadband (256Kbps) and all of Telstra's higher-speed broadband services," Telstra said.

Telstra didn't meet the government's criteria, for good or ill, yet the company thinks it should be included on the list. Why all the aggro from Telstra about not making the grade for a government Web site? Does its marketing department need a helping hand these days?

But no. Telstra has inveigled its way onto the Broadband Now list. By lobbying, complaining and presumably, threatening to hold its breath til it turns blue, the telco will soon have its offerings included, albeit with the disclaimer that such services are not metro comparable.

The government should be ashamed of itself for giving in, Telstra equally so for its daft request.

Next G mobile network, Telstra proclaimed, should be also counted as a broadband service. Sure, Telstra, sure -- keep telling yourself that. Telstra's Next G network might be arguably the most comprehensive 3G coverage in Australia, but there is simply no comparison between what we know as broadband and what Telstra's 3G delivers.

If you were considering using Next G as your broadband network of choice, you're going to need some seriously deep pockets. For what's laughably termed a "super fast" connection of 1.5Mbps, with a measly 3GB cap, there's a monthly fee of almost AU$185.

Next G may be up to the job of being a data carrier, but it doesn't hold a candle to "real" broadband offerings like ADSL2+ in speed and, more importantly, price. With such poor caps and expensive plans, it's the ugly sister of the broadband market.

It's fine to expect to pay a premium for connectivity with mobility, but it's embarrassing to be asked to pay one so high. If Telstra sticks to this kind of pricing, 3G will remain the mobile broadband that never was.

Topics: Broadband, Emerging Tech, Government, Government : AU, NBN, Telcos, Telstra

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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