Stories that shaped 2006

Locally, offshoring and fibre-optic broadband networks provided the biggest talking points.

Acquisitions and mergers by the industry's US powerbrokers continued at pace throughout 2006, but locally, offshoring and fibre-optic broadband networks provided the biggest talking points.

The rise of the Indian outsourcers was more apparent than ever, with Satyam and Tata not only snaring one of the country's biggest IT contracts -- Qantas, but taking much of the work, and jobs, out of Australia. Still, not everyone was sold on the offshoring idea, notably the ATO.

In telecommunications, plans for a nation-wide fibre to the node network raised the hopes of long-suffering broadband users everywhere. Yet those two old foes, Telstra and the ACCC, just couldn't agree, leaving the idea looking like little more than pie in the sky.

However, it wasn't only offshoring and fibre networks that hit our headlines this year. To recap which events and decisions proved pivotal for Australia's IT industry, ZDNet Australia presents this overview of the stories that shaped 2006.

April

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."

Nine of Telstra's major competitors unexpectedly floated a rival proposal to Telstra's plans to build a nation-wide fibre to the node broadband network. While the plan is still a long way from getting off the ground, it remains Australia's best hope of getting a new nation-wide fibre-optic broadband network.

May

Feds confirm smart card, Centrelink spend

"The federal government this evening confirmed it had allocated AU$1.09 billion over four years to a controversial health and welfare access card scheme, which a private consultant said would save AU$3 billion over 10 years."

Joe Hockey's carefully-conceived access card (it's not a smart card, you know) set off the Australia card debate all over again and had privacy advocates up in arms. High-profile appointments followed, with Microsoft's public services director Marie Johnson lured from Redmond to lead the project, and ex-ACCC chief Alan Fels recruited to oversee privacy. The AU$1.1 billion budget for the access card means it will be one of the biggest IT projects in Australia for the next few years.

Offshore developers would've slowed us: ATO

"The Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) decision to forgo offshore software development in its Change Program was based on risk and working practices rather than cost or data security, according to second commissioner Greg Farr."

Amid the industry's rush to send IT work to India, the ATO stood firm. Greg Farr and his team sized up the cost benefits, and despite pressing deadlines, decided the supposed "no brainer" wasn't worthwhile. Farr cited the need for ATO developers to work in close proximity to each other, saying remote workers would've slowed the Change Program. While offshoring still isn't completely off the ATO's agenda, it will be interesting to see if the ATO's reasoning gains more mindshare among tech executives.

June

Report blames Customs for cargo pile-up

"Inadequate testing and training were two factors contributing to the Australian Customs Service's botched Integrated Cargo System (ICS) implementation late last year, an independent review has found."

Around this time last year, the Australian Customs Service was being lambasted by every media outlet for the huge amounts of cargo piling up on docks around the country. Freight forwarders and customs brokers were struggling to use the new Integrated Cargo System (ICS), and they didn't hold back in publicly criticising Customs for what they claimed was a rushed implementation. Customs hit back, arguing many users weren't entering data correctly. An independent audit report in June, however, pointed the finger squarely at Customs, ensuring ICS would become a textbook case of how not to implement a software project.

August

Telstra fibre talks break down

"Talks between Telstra and the competition regulator over the terms under which the telco would build a new national fibre broadband network have been discontinued."

After eight months of fiery national debate over its plans to build a new national fibre to the node broadband network, Telstra's talks with the national competition regulator broke down, placing in doubt the long-term future of high-speed broadband in Australia.

October

Corporates jump on Telstra's Next G

"Telstra may have only officially launched its national "Next G" third-generation (3G) mobile network last week, but some 23 enterprise customers have already signed up for services, including Mission Australia and Downer EDI."

Telstra launched a AU$1 billion new nation-wide third-generation mobile phone network, delivering speeds utilising the High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) standard of up to 3.6Mbps. The network is slated to deliver speeds of up to 40Mbps by 2009 and represents a major attack on other mobile carriers with smaller, slower networks such as Optus, Vodafone and Hutchison.

Qantas offshores to India, 340 jobs gone

"Qantas will cull 340 technology jobs over the next 15 months as it offshores applications support and maintenance to Indian services companies Satyam and Tata Consulting."

If ever there was reason for Australia's IT professionals to fear for their job security, Qantas's decision to send 300 jobs to India was it. The decision was loudly condemned by the Australian Services Union, but Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon said the airline simply could not justify the cost of maintaining in-house IT services when superior scale and efficiency was available elsewhere. The rise of the Indian outsourcers continues ...

November

Vista in slow lane for Aussie CIOs

"A majority of chief information officers and administrators of Australian companies polled by ZDNet Australia are in no rush to roll out Microsoft Vista because the operating system requires too much processing power and doesn't provide a compelling business case to upgrade."

Microsoft launched its Windows Vista and Office 2007 software into the Australian market. But the majority of large organisations polled by ZDNet Australia signalled they would hold back on implementing the software for the moment due to the lack of a compelling business case.

Telstra uncaps ADSL broadband

"Telstra today finally launched uncapped ADSL1 and ADSL2+ broadband services, more than 18 months after some competitors started offering the higher speed services."

Telstra launched ADSL services in Australia more than six years ago, but kept both its wholesale and retail offerings capped to 1.5Mbps, preventing potential speeds of up to 8Mbps from being realised by millions of Australians.

In November, the telco finally uncapped the services and launched higher speed ADSL2+ broadband up to 24Mbps, breaking an artificial bottleneck that had long plagued the nation and bringing its offerings into line with rival telcos.