Home & Office

Australia's low-fibre diet

Too much talk and not enough action is crippling the industry.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor
commentary It is a truth universally acknowledged that a first-world country in possession of a good economy must be in want of a nation-wide fibre-optic communications network.
Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
This is certainly the case in Australia.

As it becomes increasingly clear the nation's needs are growing too large to be served by existing last-mile copper infrastructure, most industry players are eagerly plugging fibre as a replacement.

Just yesterday your writer received an invitation from the industry's self-regulatory body the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) to a public discussion on that very topic.

Of course, the usual suspects will attend the meeting. The nation's dominant carriers Telstra and Optus, vendors such as Alcatel, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will all be there.

This forum will come just one month after a similar event being held yesterday by local broadband evangelist and telecommunications analyst Paul Budde.

These events are obviously helpful, as ACIF put it in the invitation, in helping the industry to explore "the operational, technical, regulatory and commercial issues surrounding fibre".

But given how long the industry has been talking about fibre it's likely a lot of people are thinking along the lines of Elvis Presley's classic song "A little less conversation".

For those not familiar with the lyrics, the follow-up line is: "A little more action please ... come on baby I'm tired of talking."

The King's sentiments are particularly appropriate when you consider the lengthy and ongoing talks between Telstra and the ACCC about the terms under which the telco would build its proposed national fibre network.

The network appears to be no closer to construction than when Telstra initially announced it last November.

And according to rival Optus, a decision on the network will not even be made before the final quarter of this year.

Nobody's saying the talks aren't necessary ... but couldn't Telstra have discussed the idea with the ACCC BEFORE it went public with the plans back in November?

Telstra's network is not the only one behind schedule.

A smaller trial effort in Tasmania is likely to make it to the market some 12 months after the timeline originally flagged by the state's government.

Meanwhile, over in Perth, efforts to extend Bright Telecommunication's existing fibre network are gaining pace, but the telco still needs equity partners and a further network rollout is likely to be some way off.

There are patchy fibre access networks in other places around the nation, especially in central business districts of capital cities -- but most businesses and homes are literally not in the loop.

Fibre to the home and business may, as Budde often puts it, be unstoppable, but perhaps a more accurate word to describe the situation in Australia would be "halted".

Would you like to see "a little less conversation" on fibre? How would you stimulate fibre developments? Drop me a line directly on renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post a comment below.

Editorial standards