Truth the first casualty in telco war

commentary All warfare is based on deception, according to legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War in the sixth century BC. Or, to put it as later societies have, truth is the first casualty in war.

commentary All warfare is based on deception, according to legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War in the sixth century BC.

Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
Or, to put it as later societies have, truth is the first casualty in war.

Never has this principle been more evident than in the current conflict between the nation's largest telco Telstra, and a group of its rivals known as the G9, over the terms of how a new national fibre broadband network should be built.

For example, your writer was amused to note some of the particular details enclosed in Telstra's outrageous attack yesterday on Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel.

"Under his watch, investment in fixed telecommunications infrastructure has sunk to record low levels, while all the time Mr Samuel has steadfastly refused to admit there is any problem with regulation or indeed the regulator itself," wrote Telstra on its Now We Are Talking Web site.

This is a claim, unfortunately for the telco, that is hard to back up.

After all, wasn't it Telstra itself that ploughed piles of cash into the upgrade of its ADSL network to the higher-speed ADSL2+ standard? Not to mention the money going into back-office soft switches and other network infrastructure.

And of course the telco is building an undersea cable link to Hawaii, at a reputed value of AU$300 million.

You also can't ignore the hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars that Optus, in addition to smaller players such as iiNet, Internode, TPG, Netspace, Adam Internet and others are slamming down on the table for their own ADSL2+ hardware.

Sure, these players aren't putting many fibre cables in the ground, but others such as Amcom, Uecomm and Pipe Networks are.

Isn't it instead Telstra's own Web site that contains "more pork pies than Baker's Delight", an accusation thrown by the telco's spokesperson Rod Bruem in another posting aimed at Optus?

Of course, Telstra does not have a monopoly on deception.

Your writer was very amused to see the G9 take out full page advertisements in national newspapers this week, pushing the view that it should be allowed to build a national fibre network instead of Telstra.

The only problem is, the ads failed to mention at all the G9's admission that any such network buildout would be completely dependent upon Telstra's cooperation. In fact, the G9 plan would replace vast sections of Telstra's existing copper infrastructure.

This lie by omission is something Telstra has rightly pointed out in the past, and in your writer's book, counts as deceiving the public.

Then there was this sentence: "While competitors like iiNet, Internode, Optus and Primus have offered ADSL2+ since 2005, Telstra only made it available in December 2006."

Unfortunately this sentence contains some errors. Primus still does not offer ADSL2+. And Optus only got on the ADSL2+ bandwagon with its launch on 31 March 2006.

As you can see, the truth is a fluid concept on both sides. Maybe your humbled correspondent should launch his own lobbying campaign dubbed "Tell the truth telecommunications industry"?

Australia's telcos -- a pack of fibbers or just bending the truth? Drop me a line directly at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post your comments below this article.