John Howard needs a new phone

Which telcos provide essential voice and data services to the PM?

commentary Which telcos provide essential voice and data services to Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his staff?

Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
Like most workers in large organisations, the PM probably doesn't know -- and he doesn't need to.

After all, whether it's Macquarie Telecom or Telstra, to end users it's all the same. The only thing that matters is whether phone, e-mail and Web browser services still work.

It's the job of IT professionals (and tech journalists) to nitpick over who supplied what to whom, and why.

However, the fact remains that like many government agencies and large corporates around the nation, Howard's federal Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) may soon have one or more new telco suppliers.

PM&C is currently evaluating a range of telcos as the department works out who will supply its voice, data and video links for the next few years.

And yes, that includes the Lodge and Kirribilli House.

Now PM&C is not the only government department currently refreshing its telco list; the public sector is currently a hotbed of telco purchasing activity.

Both New South Wales and Tasmania are currently deciding on telco suppliers for large government contracts. In addition, the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the NSW Department of Commerce, IP Australia, nuclear agency ANSTO and the Australian Trade Commission have all flagged plans to go telco shopping.

But looking a little further into PM&C's move in particular is a step that will illustrate an important trend.

PM&C is typical of government agencies in that the department does use the nation's largest telco Telstra for some services, but includes others such as Optus and AAPT in the mix.

Even smaller telcos have grabbed a piece of the action -- last time your writer checked, the PM's e-mail was hosted by Macquarie Telecom in an extremely secure facility.

This ability to select a range of different telcos for enterprise-grade services represents the fact that Australia's telco sector has matured greatly since it was formally opened to full competition back in 1997.

Large organisations can now satisfy their telco needs from any one of a number of credible and reliable suppliers in the market, and will increasingly take advantage of this variety instead of being limited to Australia's historical monopolist Telstra.

In another example, when NSW recently culled their list of potential suppliers for the state's annual AU$260 million telco spend, they came up with no less than 14 names.

Having such choice can only lead to better -- and probably eventually, cheaper -- services to enterprises.

Is there enough competition for the telco spend of large organisations? Drop me a line directly at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post your opinion below this article.

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