commentary AU$3 billion is a lot of money by anyone's reckoning. That's why many telcos' ears pricked up when communications minister Helen Coonan announced last week she was considering making some of that dough available to consortiums interested in building a wholesale bush broadband access network.
commentary AU$3 billion is a lot of money by anyone's
reckoning. That's why many telcos' ears pricked up when communications
minister Helen Coonan announced last week she was considering
making some of that dough available to consortiums interested in
building a wholesale bush broadband access network.
The funds -- which make up the government's Connect Australia
package -- had previously been allocated on a per-customer
However, that rule could now be changed, Coonan indicated on
the morning of the second day of the annual conference of the
Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG).
The news was a great hangover cure for executives with sore
heads from ATUG's annual awards ceremony the night before. And
the industry was quick to respond.
At least one consortium is already forming, coordinated by
veteran telecomms analyst and broadband evangelist Paul
"I would now propose forming a consortium along the lines the
Minister is asking for," Budde said in a statement widely
distributed by e-mail last Friday.
Budde is gathering a wide range of parties to a public meeting
today at Sydney's Observatory Hotel in an effort to get a
consortium off the ground.
Some of the key players likely to be involved have been formed
from the telecommunications assets of electricity utilities.
For example, Silk Telecom and Nexium Telecommunications will
present a blueprint for a new wholesale industry
association to kickstart the proposed consortium.
The move was foreshadowed last week when Silk's chief
executive Simon Perkins said in a phone interview with your
writer that Silk -- which operates optical fibre cable around
South Australia and Victoria -- was pursuing commercial
agreements with other members of the Utilitel group Budde helped
The group is composed of geographically diverse utilities
interested in cooperating with regards to their
Budde has demonstrated in the past his strong ability to bring
together different telecommunications players to achieve joint
outcomes. Utilitel and the burgeoning cooperation between
electricity utilities in general is one example of this.
However, depending on who turns up, today's meeting will
likely test the veteran's abilities. Some of the players involved
will undoubtedly be direct competitors and have infrastructure in
the same areas.
Budde has invited a wide range of competing retail and
wholesale providers. One of the few things that unites these
telcos is their naked disdain for anything related to
However Coonan's AU$3 billion pot is a strong incentive to
work together, and if Budde's plans come to fruition, end users
will clearly be the beneficiaries.
Just about any initiative that will stimulate broadband
infrastructure development in regional areas is to be strongly
What do you think about the minister's proposal? Will it
stimulate bush broadband or simply fatten up some of Australia's
existing telcos? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.