Conroy caves in to FTTN deadline demands

The Federal government has announced today that bidders for the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network will receive an extra 12 weeks to study network information for their proposals.

The Federal government has announced today that bidders for the national FTTN network will receive an extra 12 weeks to study network information for their proposals.

Federal Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced the extension today after pressure from Terria — formerly the G9 — and other industry figures to extend the deadline for proposals.

Conroy has now given all bidders an extra 12 weeks from the date that "all material is made available" to examine Australia's network infrastructure ahead of submitting their proposals.

"In February, I wrote to carriers seeking the voluntary disclosure of network information ... Telstra has provided some network information, however, despite its best efforts some information is not yet available," said Conroy in a statement.

"The provision of network information is vital to allow potential proponents to build the network to compete on an equal basis," he said, adding that "it is important that interested parties have adequate time to make use of information about existing infrastructure."

Although Conroy had previously refused to lengthen the bid process, but threats from Optus to pull out of the bid, and repeated claims that the network details provided by Telstra were inadequate for rival proposals may have prompted the Minister's decision.

"The Minister is under extreme pressure to deliver on this network by the end of the year — it was an election promise," said Paul Budde, telecommunications analyst.

"For him to delay proceedings at this stage is our clearest indication yet that Telstra is not living up to its end of the bargain. The government can see itself that Telstra hasn't offered up the right information," he said, "now they've put the ball back in Telstra's court."

Opposition communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson, issued a statement today describing the government's original 25 July deadline for proposals as "unrealistic".

"The bulk of this information is held by Telstra and without it other potential bidders are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to developing and costing credible proposals," he said.

David Kennedy, research director for analyst firm Ovum said he was "not surprised" by Conroy's decision: "If anything, the government has been pushing too hard to meet a political timetable."

"The extension must be kept in perspective: the network will take around four years to build, and it will be used for decades. A few extra weeks to ensure that the process is genuinely competitive are well worth any additional delay," he concluded.