Australian incumbent Telstra has formulated plans to invest AUD500 million (USD359 million) in upgrading its HFC cable network to deliver super-fast broadband should it fail to agree on the terms of the regulation of its planned next generation fibre-to-the-node network (FTTN) with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). As the owner of Australia’s PSTN, Telstra must provide alternative operators with unrestricted access to its network, something which has been the source of extensive debate since unbundled local loop (ULL) and wholesale products were introduced in 2000. The telco says it is the subject of over-regulation and is refusing to comply with the ACCC’s latest draft proposals for ULL pricing, published in June 2005, which it claims would result in it offering services below cost price. It is concerned that alternative operators will profit on its investment in the FTTN by piggybacking on the new network at a reduced cost, and is threatening to delay the rollout of the FTTN unless it sees wide-reaching changes to the regulatory regime.
In the interim, according to The Australian newspaper, Telstra has now devised a plan to upgrade its cable network, as a so-called Option B should the ACCC refuse to compromise on access terms. Currently, Telstra’s HFC network passes around 2.5 million homes, with nodes capable of serving up to 1,200 customers each. The network offers two way transmission for interactive services and high speed data transfer at speeds of up to 10Mbps, whilst its ADSL via PSTN service offers speeds of up to 1.5Mbps (downstream) and 512kbps (upstream). The FTTN would offer broadband at speeds of up to 12Mbps.