Calgary broadband network builder riding high down under

Calgary’s AxiaNetMedia has a good shot at building Australia’s new $8.3billion National Broadband Network (NBN) now that incumbent telcoTelstra has been given the boot. At least, that’s the view of NationalBank Financial, which covers publicly-traded Axia. The company builtand runs Alberta’s SuperNet as well as networks in France and Singapore.Testralwas banned today from the bidding process after its 13-pagenon-compliant bid did not meet requirements to include small to mediumenterprises in the construction of the NBN, reportsComputerWorld Australia.The goal of the NBNis to speed Australia’s sluggish broadband speeds by bringing fibre tothe node. Axia is familiar with things down under, having been anunsuccesful bidder on a project to build and operate a national ruralbroadband network.

With Telstra seemingly out, the contendersnow are Axia, Acacia, (a consortium led by billionaire businessmanSolomon Lew) and Terria (a consortium of local providers Optus, iiNet,Internode, Macquarie Telecom and iPrimus). However, National BankFinancial’s Kris Thompson cautions that Telstra – once considered thefavourite – is not necessarily out. The telco was under pressure fromcompetitors to split its operations into wholesale and retail divisionsif it won the NBN contract. Telstra didn’t get a promise from thegovernment it wouldn’t have to do that, so submitted a bid that coveredonly about 90 per cent of the country’s population. The gambleseemingly backfired, for the government has decided the telco’ssubmission hasn’t met the minimum requirements. Telstra does, however,have an ace in the hole – it has the funding lined up to pay for theroughly half of the cost of the network the current government won’tcover. As Thompson notes, the submissions of the other bidders areconfidential so it isn’t clear where Axia’s funding will come from.That’s why he isn’t counting Telstra out.The current Laborgovernment would like to make a decision by March. Thompson thinksthat’s “very ambitious,” especially if the panel making the decisionwants to find some way of getting Telstra back in the competition.

Stay tuned.

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