Newly formed telco Silk Telecom is gearing up to
commence a trial of broadband over powerline (BPL) technology in
Melbourne, working with one of its parents, electricity
|Silk Telecom CEO|
Silk was created last month from the optical fibre cable
assets of Powercor and sibling South Australian utility ETSA.
Silk is owned 100 percent by Hong Kong business the Cheung Kong Group, which also holds majority stakes in the parent utilities.
Silk's chief executive Simon Perkins told ZDNet Australia the
Melbourne trial followed a similar one conducted by ETSA in its home state.
"You've seen Aurora, a power distributor in Tasmania, they're
running quite a big trial now on BPL, and I'm part of that
working committee," he said. "We've run one already in South
Australia, and I'm going to run another one in Victoria."
The BPL trials correspond with Cheung Kong's own moves in Hong
"Our parent company, Cheung Kong Group/Hong Kong Electric ...
they've got 40,000 people using BPL in Hong Kong," said Perkins.
"And its commercially viable. So we are copying what they're
doing in Hong Kong down here on a trial basis."
Perkins said the Melbourne trial would go ahead after a
building developer was identified to assist with some of the
The executive harbours no doubts about how solid the
fledgling technology is. "It works, already technically we've proved it that it works,"
he said. "We can get 8Mbps to the home, over the powerline."
Perkins added these were reliable speeds under real-world
conditions. "I think you can do much faster than that in ideal
conditions," he said, "but I'll give you the real story: It works
up to 8Mbps without any issues at all."
But Perkins also admitted BPL was not without its
"At the moment the economics of it are not fantastic," he
said. "It's just as well for me to go out and rent ULL [local
copper cable] from Telstra."
However, he noted, if the cost of BPL network hardware came
down, and Telstra's plans to charge AU$30 a month for access to its
copper cables went ahead, "we've got an alternative last mile
Silk has access to the utilities' fibre-optic
cable and facilities in Melbourne and Adelaide, as well as some rural
areas, but is also looking to expand.
"We're going to do a AU$25 million capital expenditure program
this year on fibre," said Perkins, "focusing primarily on the
Melbourne CBD and metro, because we've already got the Adelaide
CBD and metro pretty well covered."
"We've done some South Australian regional towns: Port
Lincoln, Port August, Whyalla, all of those we're doing right
now. In Melbourne and western Victoria we're pretty well covered,
we've got the big loop that runs out through Geelong, Ballarat,
Bendigo and back into Melbourne."
Perkins also flagged an increase in future network sharing deals between utilities, driven through industry forum Utilitel.
"We're already driving forward with commercial agreements with the other Utilitel members," he said. "Basically the only thing that holds me back at the moment is not having national reach. But if I have a correspondent relationship, for example with people like Nexium up in Queensland, I'll provide services in their district on their network and vice versa. And that's happening right now."
Silk has inherited Powercor and ETSA as customers and will
also sell bandwidth to Internet service providers like Adam
Internet, as well as government, education and healthcare
"We will build fibre to a customers' premises where the
economics stack up," said Perkins.
"I'm not going to get into retail, I'll leave that to the
Primuses, the ISPs of this world," he added.