Australian minister vows to quash WiMax network

Stephen Conroy, the Australian shadow minister for communications and IT, has smashed the federal government’s Australia Connected initiative and promised to wipe out the broadband taskforce if Labor wins government.

Speaking at the recent Australian telecommunications summit in Sydney, Conroy labeled the federal governments’ A$1.9 billion broadband plan to roll out WiMax and ADSL2+ across the country with the popular “fraud-band” tag.

He said the network’s purported speeds of up to 12Mbps could fall as low as 512kbps because of changes in topography such as mountains and buildings, distance between nodes, power limitations for residents outside 240 volt grids, and traffic build-up.

The OPEL network will operate on a shared spectrum, and will employ a mix of technology, including ADSL2+, WiMax, and wireless mesh networks in densely populated areas.

“Labor’s fiber to the node (FttN) network will have a minimum of 12Mbps delivered to 98 per cent of the population and will promote competition [because] it will be built on open access,” Conroy said.

“I am a fan of WiFi networks but they are complementary to FttN networks, they are not a substitute.

“We reject the [government’s] proposed closed-access network and Labor’s open-access network is fully costed by Telstra.”

Conroy dismissed claims by federal ICT minister Helen Coonan that FttN connectivity is restricted within a four kilometre radius of an exchange, claiming Labor’s FttN base stations will be placed five to 10 kilometres apart, well within the 20 kilometre radius proposed by analysts.

The FttN network is based on Telstra’s 2005 proposal which will cost $4.7 billion of government and private funds and will be rolled out over five years.

Conroy said a fibre-to-the-home (FttH) network would be not be immediately considered as projected costs range between $30 and $50 billion.

The opposition will demand open access for all sections of a FttH network, including the last mile which links the premise to the node currently controlled by Telstra.

The Labor government would honour the current government’s OPEL-lead broadband proposal if it wins the next election and the plan has been signed off.

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