Delays in securing local council approvals have pushed back the planned launch
of a trial of a new fibre to the home (FTTH) service in Tasmania
by almost four months.
Dubbed the Tasmanian Collaborative Optical Leading Testbed
(TasCOLT) and initially announced in January, the
FTTH trial is being carried out under a partnership between the state
government and industry.
Two months ago, Tasmania's Minister for Economic Development
Lara Giddings said the trial would go live with "very
competitive" pricing on speeds of up to 100Mbps to more than 1,000 homes in Hobart in
late November or early December this year, with an additional 200
in Devonport added early in 2006.
However TasCOLT's project development manager Brian Beswick
told ZDNet Australia yesterday the network had not yet been built
due to delays in the paperwork being processed by both the Hobart
and Devonport City Councils.
"That's progressing pretty well, but we've got to let that
process unwind, which will take the rest of this year," he
"Because of that really, we're now looking at starting the
build of the network in the first quarter [of 2006]."
The TasCOLT project stemmed from a study
exploring ways to accelerate the development of high-capacity
communication infrastructure in the state, carried out by the Tasmanian Electronic Commerce Centre on behalf of
the Tasmanian government in 2003.
Beswick added the delays meant TasCOLT would be looking at
launching real products towards the end of the first quarter next year.
Despite the delays, Beswick said the trial had already
generated "quite a good level of interest" from the community and
other infrastructure players alike.
For example, TasCOLT is talking to various wireless broadband
carriers, who could use the project's huge bandwidth as
a network backbone to extend the reach of their services.
Beswick declined to say which players were involved.
"Quite a few" Tasmanian residents have also registered to
participate in the trial.
Another opportunity for collaboration has arisen with Aurora
Energy's broadband over powerline (BPL) trial currently running
in the state. Aurora is one of the partners developing TasCOLT,
along with the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development.
Internet service provider TasTel -- the retail arm of Aurora's BPL project and a partnership between
Aurora, AAPT and renewable energy business Hydro Tasmania -- is
providing the retail offering for TasCOLT.
"We're looking to multi-layer our projects with the BPL
trial," said Beswick. He also mentioned the potential of
interoperating with other government data networks.
TasCOLT's activities are attracting the
attention of several international telecommunications
"We've got quite a bit of interest from overseas, and probably
the world's largest carrier paid a visit to us because they were
quite interested in what we were doing," said Beswick.
"There is also a Japanese carrier interested in what's going
on down here."
"Additionally, we've got a sister project going on in Thailand
which is very much the same technology -- called ThaiCOLT."
Beswick said hopefully the trial would encourage other local
carriers to follow suit and build fibre-optic networks.
"This is a commercial trial, and we're really trying to prove
the commerciality not just to ourselves, but also to other
"The government, particularly the Tasmanian government, and
with increasing interest from the federal government, want to
really show that such access technologies are deployable, are
commercial, and that therefore carriers should really be making
an effort to pursue that route rather than the more conservative
approach which seems to be the case in Australia."
The manager said a challenge in front of the Australian
telecommunications industry was how it would proceed to
higher-speed networks as countries like Japan, Korea and
Singapore had already done.
"At the end of the day just how much can you push out a piece
of copper?" he said, referring to the current generation of
primarily ADSL-based broadband technologies running over
Telstra's copper phone lines.
Beswick said Telstra's recently plans to extend its
fibre-optic network from its telephone exchanges out to
neighbourhood street-side cabinets with the aim of providing
higher-speed ADSL2+ access to all "weren't anything new".
"Telstra were always going to have to make some serious
decisions about their infrastructure," he said.
"If we push copper we can maybe get ADSL2+ and that's five or
six times slower than the basic speed of fibre," he
"We've fundamentally got to decide if it's time to spend some
money and replace our copper."
"I'm hoping that Telstra and maybe a couple of other carriers
out there who've talked about this for some time might actually
stump up and get a bit serious about this."