Remote Australian regions to get higher online speeds

SYDNEY – Almost 1.8 million of Australia’s most remote premises will be able to get online speeds of up to 24Mbps virtually immediately after a logjam between a telco and the federal government finally broke.

The deal, made last week, will see up to 952 exchanges enabled with ADSL2 technology after Telstra broke the regulatory stalemate.

In a three-stage arrangement, 370 exchanges were to be upgraded within 48 hours of the deal. Another 132 exchanges serving 230,000 premises will receive the second generation technology within three weeks, and the remaining 405 DSLAMS will be streaming ADSL2+ within 200 days.

The telco previously refused to upgrade the regional exchanges, which many cases would simply require turning on the pre-existing ADSL2+ technology, because the government was mum on whether it would regulate wholesale third-party access to competitors.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he backed the somewhat ambiguous statement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that arguments for ADSL2+ wholesale regulation are not strong enough.

“The ACCC has previously indicated that a compelling case has not been made for declaring and regulating third party access to a wholesale xDSL service,” Conroy said in a letter to Telstra. “As a result of this advice, I concluded that there is a high degree of regulatory certainty in relation to the ACCC’s approach to wholesale ADSL2+ services.

Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo said the move indicates the government is averse to the regulation of broadband services. “It is clear that the government understands the artificial impediments that have been holding back investment in broadband, and is prepared to act in consumers’ best interests,” Trujillo said.

“Regulatory forbearance will be good for consumers because it permits the rapid deployment of broadband; good for shareholders because Telstra will not be forced to resell to competitors services they can provide simply by choosing to invest their own capital.

“This simple act of the new government unlocks the potential of high-speed broadband for households and businesses around Australia.”

Trujillo said Telstra will build a A$4.1 billion open-access Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN) network under the same model in which it will resell access on competitive terms.

Shadow communications minister Bruce Billson said the regulation stalemate was unnecessary and blamed the government for procrastinating on the issue.

“Given the repeated reassurances from the previous government and consistent public statements by [the] ACCC, Telstra accurately characterizes the claimed impediments to the ADSL2+ roll-out as ‘artificial’,” Billson said.

“The fiction that a legitimate barrier existed is further exposed in Senator Conroy’s ‘letter of comfort’ which recognizes these matters as simply ‘a decision by Telstra to switch on ADSL2+ services’.

Billson said Telstra heldoff the ADSL2+ deployments under the former government because it was concerned with regulatory and costing issues with its FttN network.

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