New Australian fibre plan comes in four flavours

A proposal floated today by Telstra's major competitors to upgrade the nation's broadband infrastructure comes in four distinct models, all of which see the heavyweight playing a key role.

A proposal floated today by Telstra's major competitors to upgrade the nation's broadband infrastructure comes in four distinct models, all of which see the heavyweight playing a key role.

Telcos Optus, Macquarie Telecom, PowerTel, Primus, Internode, Soul and TransACT this morning outlined a proposal where they and potentially others would collectively fund the building of a new national high-speed fibre-optic telecommunications network that all telcos could access and use to sell broadband services.

But while the proposal comes in opposition to a similar plan put forward by Telstra in November, all four models the rival group is proposing require heavy cooperation from the nation's former monopoly carrier.

"At this stage we've identified four potential approaches that could be applied," Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan told journalists in a media briefing this morning.

"The first one we have is a model where Australia would be divided into geographic areas, with Telstra responsible for upgrading some of these areas and other telcos involved in the consortium working either individually or jointly in other areas."

O'Sullivan said the model would see the network being built to common standards and guaranteed interconnection between areas taking place.

"The second model ... would be where Telstra cooperates with all the carriers on designing the network, and on the capex [capital expenditure], which we would all contribute to," he continued.

"The substantive work on the network across Australia might be done by Telstra, as the core operator."

O'Sullivan said under the third model the nation's existing copper network would be sold to a joint venture company, "which all the various shareholders, including Telstra and the other telcos can participate in, and work with to design, finance and built a new network".

The Optus boss said this third model was being used in Canada and the United States.

"And the fourth model we've developed is one which you would work to incorporate several of the existing networks which already meet the speed requirements," said O'Sullivan.

Examples include Telstra and Optus' existing HFC cable networks, or infrastructure owned by TransACT, Soul or Macquarie Telecom.

"We would use that as the basis for interacting or integrating all the networks, and then creating a joint operation moving forward," O'Sullivan said.

The CEO added variations of the four models naturally existed.

"But we think those four models provide the best pillars or bases for discussion," he said.

"It's on those foundations that we now intend to begin consultation with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, with government, and of course we'll inviting Telstra to participate in that as well."

However Telstra has already indicated its hostility to its rivals' plan, which the telco described this morning as "a pick-pocket plan to rip-off Telstra shareholders and taxpayers".

Soul chief executive Michael Simmons said in this morning's media briefing Telstra's rivals would force it into line.

"It would be our hope that the ACCC would intervene to encourage Telstra to consider a cooperative approach to rolling out a fibre to the node network," he said.

In response to a question on what action would be taken if Telstra resisted such pressure, Simmons said the rival coalition would seek "legislative support".

The coalition would "consider various options to petition government to force Telstra to cooperate," he said.


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