There's a report in The Australian IT section today that has the managing director of BigPond saying that Telstra is the company best placed to implement the $4.7 billion FTTN network being financed by the federal govenment. Of course, he would say this, with BigPond being owned by Telstra and all.
"I can't see how anybody other than Telstra can build a big, scaled and reliable broadband service for Australia because it is such a hard thing to do. It's a huge project ... it relies on a whole bunch of existing infrastructure and clearly Telstra is the right firm to do that job," he told the Australian.
Actually, there's a certain logic to what he's saying — Telstra is the certainly the company with most experience implementing a broadband network in Australia. What has struck me, however, is how strange it would be for Telstra to win the tender, given it's a large part of the problem the government is trying to fix.
I've felt for some time that in Australia we don't have so much a capacity problem as we have a Telstra problem. The act of simply unlocking the full capacity of its existing infrastucture would take a considerable proportion of Australian users past the original requirements of the new FTTN network. ADSL 2+ can technically deliver 24mbps, but Telstra has been reluctant in the past to let people actually access more than 1.5mbps. Other ISPs have worked around that limitation, putting their own ADSL 2+ equipment in exchanges and allowing uncapped access to the network (essentially, you can connect as fast as your phone line allows you to connect). In exchanges where other ISPs offer ADSL 2+ services, Telstra has belatedly followed, though it charges about $20 more per month for the privilege of unfettered access.
It's this very reluctance on the part of Telstra to push the capabilities of broadband that led us to this point, the point where taxpayers' money in being used to finance a new network outside the purview of the incumbent. It potentially creates a new Telecom under government control (although we've heard precious little about how the new network will be run and managed). Wouldn't it be odd to put the construction of this network in the hands of the company that forced us here in the first place? [The Australian]