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Don't hold breath for fibre: Telstra

The transition to an all-fibre network to replace Telstra's ageing copper asset is unlikely to take place for another two decades or so, with near-term deployment of fibre restricted to new estates and "very limited" replacement of copper, a senior executive said today.

The transition to an all-fibre network to replace Telstra's ageing copper asset is unlikely to take place for another two decades or so, with near-term deployment of fibre restricted to new estates and "very limited" replacement of copper, a senior executive said today.

Telstra group managing director Ted Pretty told an analyst briefing this morning in Sydney that "aggressive industry forecasts" for Australia suggest by 2020, around 6 million households would be served by Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and 2 million still serviced by copper.

"The takeout is that fibre is becoming cost-competitive with copper and we should be seeing much more of it beginning in the months ahead -- but the transition to all fibre will occur over the next 15-20 years, not in the short term," Pretty said.

He said the total FTTP capital expenditure for network equipment -- including cable -- per home passed was expected to come down from 1.5 times the cost of copper to about equal within the next 18-24 months.

"The cost to support FTTP will be less than the cost to support traditional copper-based network(s)," Pretty said. "In addition to savings on the initial activation, we estimate there will be annual savings from a more resilient and flexible FTTP network.

"Currently customers use a variety of access infrastructures to receive telephony, broadband data and pay television services," Pretty said. "FTTP will offer an equivalent to these existing products and services via one dual-fibre access technology with ongoing cost savings in operations and maintenance.

"Also, longer term, FTTP technology will provide a growth path to higher bandwidth Internet and entertainment services".

Telstra has set aside AU$34 million to extend its FTTP trials to new estates.