commentary When Telstra put its plans to build a national Fibre to the Node
(FTTN) broadband network on hold in December it must have been a
tense day at Alcatel's Australian headquarters in the Sydney
suburb of Alexandria.
Just one month before, Telstra had named the vendor as a key
hardware supplier of the new network, which was billed as
delivering broadband speeds of 12Mbps or greater to four million
Telstra said Alcatel will also supply other pieces of hardware
and services to aid the telecommunications carrier's overall
transformation of its infrastructure.
Alcatel won't say how much of its AU$3.5 billion memorandum of
understanding with Telstra is dependent upon the FTTN component,
however it is likely to be a substantial portion.
Probably enough to cause a few long phone calls between Sydney
and Alcatel's global headquarters in Paris when Telstra put the
network on hold due to concerns government regulations would
force the telco to allow competitors the same access they
currently get to its existing copper network.
Telstra and the nation's competition regulator are currently
hammering out a deal under which Telstra would build the network,
but some commentators think the process could take a year or
These are the difficulties facing Alcatel's new Australian
chief Hilary Mine, who has only been in the country six months
after relocating from Texas for the role.
And Mine's not the only fresh face amongst Alcatel's local
management -- the vendor's chief technology officer Ric Clark
took up his role just three months ago, and Shirley Cotterill
will move from rival Nortel to head up Alcatel's Telstra account
on May 5.
With all these factors in the pot it's not hard to see why
Alcatel is playing cheerleader for Telstra in trying to get a
good deal from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
(ACCC) on the proposed FTTN network.
Back in February Alcatel president and chief operating officer
Mike Quigley reportedly spent several days in Canberra making
Telstra's case for regulatory certainty on the FTTN
With the success of a AU$3.5 billion contract on Alcatel's
mind, it makes sense to pull out the big guns.
In addition, just this morning a report landed on your
writer's desk, penned by Alcatel with help from consultant KPMG,
claiming to have identified "a number of regulatory levers and
policy options that could be used to encourage next-generation
broadband infrastructure investment in Australia".
Alcatel has always emphasised the FTTN component of its deal
with Telstra depended on favourable regulatory conditions, but
will Alcatel's shareholders see it that way when the negotiations
Perhaps that's why the report states that "time is of the
essence" if Australia is to play host to a next-generation
broadband network of the type Telstra put on hold in
"Australia must act soon or risk falling behind. Doing nothing
is the worst outcome of all," the report advises.
It certainly would be for Alcatel.
What do you think? Will the ACCC and Telstra come
to a deal on a FTTN network or will Alcatel end up empty-handed?
Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.