update The Western Australia state government will pool the next 10 years of its annual AU$100 million telecommunications spend into a billion dollar contract to build a state-wide broadband network.
Announcing the deal in a statement issued today, WA Premier Alan Carpenter said a competitive tender process for the contract would be undertaken early in 2007.
"The successful tenderer will be required to build a broadband network that will provide access to all Western Australians and industry," Carpenter said in the statement.
The network is expected to provide speeds of 10Mbps in its initial stages -- and not just in metropolitan areas.
"Communities such as those at Kununurra in the far North, the outer Perth metropolitan suburb of Kalamunda, or the wheat belt community of Kukerin, will be expected to have the same access to this new privately-owned, purpose-built broadband network as those in the city," said Carpenter.
In the same statement, WA science and innovation minister Francis Logan said the strategy was based on a similar model implemented in Alberta, Canada.
"The Alberta state government has demonstrated that it is possible for a provincial government to facilitate the creation of market conditions which result in a more competitive broadband sector that delivers faster speeds, lower prices and increased penetration of services," he said.
On the project's Web site, the government states wholesale access will be provided to the network by retail Internet service providers and telcos, through numerous points of presence. The retail providers themselves will provide the so-called "last-mile access" to end users.
"This would provide a degree of wholesale and retail separation that facilitates head to head competition for non-government end users," the site says. "For government, however, the solution will need to be end to end."
The Web site also states that the WA government will go to market in 2007 for "a total telecommunications solution, including mobile services, fixed data, voice and video services through a competitive tender process".
Further details about the proposed network are available from the project's Web site.
Carpenter's announcement comes as NSW Premier Morris Iemma today announced key areas of Sydney and outlying cities in the state would get free Wi-Fi access within the next three years.