Australian government taps telcos for line speeds, length

The Australian government requested detailed information on line lengths, ADSL port availability, and ADSL infrastructure as part of its review into Australia's broadband adequacy.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

A recent audit of broadband coverage in Australia by the Department of Communications collected ADSL port, line speed, and line length information from internet service providers ahead of a planned shift in the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout to fibre to the node.

As the Coalition government looks to change the NBN rollout, and prioritise areas where broadband coverage is poor, the department was tasked to assess Australia's broadband quality and availability. The summary of that report was released two days out from Christmas in 2013, with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull stating that the remainder of the report would be released some time this year, along with coverage maps indicating the availability of broadband across Australia.

The department had previously indicated at a Senate Estimates hearing in November that it would not be testing individual lines, but in answer to a question on notice released last week, the department revealed that it had managed to gather an extensive amount of information from the telcos.

"Carriers were requested to provide network coverage data and, where relevant, information regarding the location of ADSL infrastructure, availability of ports on that ADSL infrastructure, and a sample of ADSL1/2+ line sync speeds and location information to determine the approximate cable length," the department said.

Determining the length of a copper line will likely influence which premises the Coalition decides will receive fibre to the node instead of fibre to the premises or fixed wireless under a change.

The Department of Communications requested information from Telstra, Optus, NBN Co, Vodafone, iiNet, Opticomm, M2, Pivit, Openetowrks, ClubLinks, Places Victoria, Comverge, Service Elements, Bubble Telecommunications, Universal Communications Group, and CNT.

Curiously, the department did not list TPG as one of the companies it had sought information from. TPG has been preparing to offer its own fibre-to-the-basement service to 500,000 apartments and offices across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.

Turnbull told The Australian Financial Review earlier this month that TPG's plans would have to be done within the existing laws, which specifically ban the so-called cherry-picking practice of building high-speed fixed broadband networks in profitable areas without offering the same sort of wholesale service as the NBN.

Turnbull said TPG's proposal would be reviewed as part of the cost-benefit analysis being conducted into Australia's broadband environment that is due to government in mid-2014.

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