commentary A battle of galactic proportions is looming in Australia's nascent broadband market.
On one side sits the nation's former monopoly telco Telstra,
brandishing a plan to fund and build an AU$3 billion fibre
network that will bring 12Mbps broadband to around four million
Last week, however, a rebel alliance arose to challenge the
heavyweight many see as the Australian telecommunications
industry's equivalent of Star Wars' evil empire.
Telcos Optus, Macquarie Telecom, PowerTel, Primus, Internode,
Soul and TransACT want in on Telstra's fibre plans.
The seven have floated their own proposal which would see a
similar fibre network built. Under this alternative plan,
however, the rebels hope to ensure Telstra can't use its control
of infrastructure to behave in a way that is detrimental to their
In the process, they promised during a Friday press
conference, more Australians will receive high-speed broadband
more quickly than Telstra alone could deliver.
This sounds like the sort of utopian ideal commonly spouted by
revolutionaries trying to overthrow a troublesome regime.
However such dreams are unlikely to come to fruition.
"It would be our hope that the ACCC would intervene to
encourage Telstra to consider a cooperative approach to rolling
out a fibre to the node network," Soul chief executive Michael
Simmons said during Friday's proceedings.
This is the equivalent of Han Solo banking on the Force to
save him as the Millennium Falcon hurtles towards an
Telstra predictably reacted badly to the plan, claiming it was a scam.
In another case, in January Telstra terminated an agreement
with some Internet service providers over joint participation in
the government's Broadband Connect subsidised rural broadband
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde agrees with your
writer's opinion on the approach taken by the rebel alliance.
"Without first going through the process of structural
separation, an approach like this will be hard to implement,
especially as Telstra is not interested in participating in such
an initiative," he wrote in a widely distributed e-mail on
What this all adds up to is a re-run of The Empire Strikes
In the next year you can expect to see Telstra and the rebels
firing shots at each other until the ACCC and the government come
back from their retreat on Dagobah and decide what the future of
Australian broadband is going to look like.
What do you think about the rebel proposal? Will it
gain mindshare with the ACCC or be shot down before it gets off
the ground? Send your thoughts to email@example.com.