Telstra's rivals now have a "more developed" proposal for a national fibre broadband network than the giant telco has ever had, according to the national competition regulator.
The group of telcos known as the G9 -- Optus, Telecom New Zealand (AAPT/PowerTel), iiNet, Macquarie Telecom, Internode, Primus, Soul and TransACT -- initially detailed their proposal some 10 months ago, and are still putting the finishing touches on the plan.
"I think it's fair to say the G9 appear to have a more developed proposal than we ever saw from Telstra," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel told a telecommunications user group conference in Sydney this morning. Telstra cancelled its own talks over a new national fibre network with the ACCC in August last year.
Samuel said the G9 members had been providing information to the ACCC on their infrastructure model, financial and proposed telco access arrangements to the network once it was built. The group is preparing to lodge a formal proposal -- known as a special access undertaking -- with the ACCC to detail those terms in the second quarter of this year.
Although Telstra has backed away from further discussion about its own proposal, Samuel said he would "always welcome" a resumption of talks with the telco.
"It is certainly in the interests of all Australians to have some competitive tension between the parties looking at rolling out fibre to the node," said Samuel.
The ACCC boss said in any discussions about a fibre rollout, the regulator would ensure that several fundamental principles applied.
Firstly, transparency in the process would be crucial. "No deals will be done with any carrier behind closed doors," said Samuel. "All proposals must be put forward for public consultation at the appropriate time."
Secondly, network builders will need to strike a balance between the interests of potential access seekers (such as rival telcos), and investors' need for a rate of return commensurate with market risk.
And lastly, the ACCC would preserve the confidentiality of any discussions before a proposal is made public.
"This will maximise the competitive tension between parties, leading to the best outcome for end users," said Samuel.