Graeme Salt, Telstra public affairs manager, confirmed that the carrier would replace Austpac with a secure IP-based network service internally named the Finance Industry Community of Interest Network (COIN).
Austpac was established by Telstra under its former guise, Telecom Australia, in 1982. Throughout 22-years of operation the X.25 protocol point-to-point network served as the backbone for many major government and corporate online services. Its users included the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the Australian Stock Exchange, Australia's national library archive and the TAB.
However the gradual emergence of IP-based networks throughout the past decade led to speculation among industry observers that Austpac would no longer be an economic alternative for many users.
Telstra had been truculent when it came to discussing its plans for Austpac late last year, even after the ATO issued a statement to tax agents warning that the telecommunications giant planned to dismantle the service by July this year.
At the time, Chris Newlan, corporate communications manager, Telstra Business and Government, said that the carrier was reviewing the viability of the network. However he denied the ATO report that Telstra had made any firm plans to dismantle it.
Its replacement will initially target companies involved in equities trading. Salt confirmed that Telstra was in discussions with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in hopes of striking a deal that will allow the carrier to offer trading information to banks, brokers and financial media.
The ASX currently serves content electronically to a mix of around 220 brokerages houses, financial institutions and market intelligence providers.
Typically, users within a COIN own their own infrastructure into the network and pay an ongoing subscription fee to an accredited network provider to access it.
According to Salt, the Finance Industry COIN will support both DSL and Frame Relay access, and the carrier is working on building a number of "value-add" services on top of the IP-based network.
"It could be a variety of service we're looking to grow on the network and a variety of people we would like to attract on to the network," said Salt.
Telstra said it expects to start migrating customers to the new network from mid-2004.
Where Telstra has been slow to reveal its plans to replace Austpac, Optus and its parent SingTel have been able to provide a compelling private IP-network offering for companies operating in multiple countries throughout Asia-Pacific region.