SpeedReach consortium reveals alternative NGN plans

10 Jul 2006

A working group comprising nine of Australia’s largest alternative telcos has released the details of its proposed open access next-generation network (NGN). The SpeedReach consortium is made up of Internode, iiNet, Macquarie Telecom, Optus, Powertel, Primus, Soul and TransACT. Its proposal is outlined in an 87-page document prepared by consultants the Allen Consulting Group and Dandolo Partners.

The plan is being put forward as an alternative to Telstra’s proposed nationwide fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network, though the group is keen to point out that they want the fixed line incumbent to come on board and invest in their infrastructure. The group, which will create a new company called SpeedReach to build the NGN, said a jointly constructed FTTN network including Telstra would result in coverage of around five million people, as opposed to the four million Telstra plans to cover by going solo. The consortium said it has already had discussions with a number of financiers for the AUD4.1 billion (USD3.1 billion) project.

Telstra’s FTTN budget is around AUD3.1 billion, but its rollout has been much delayed as it continues to argue with the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) over how rivals will access the new network. Telstra has not welcomed the SpeedReach proposals. ‘If they spent less time announcing and more time working, we might actually have seen a real network plan by now,’ a Telstra spokesperson told ZDNet Australia. ‘We’ve been in serious talks with the ACCC for some time… serious talks about a real network plan,’ they added. ‘This is just a consultant’s report. We will release details of our plan once the ACCC is happy with the proposal.’

Telstra would appear to have a point: the 87 page document does not actually begin to outline the SpeedReach network model until page 49, and details remain scarce. The group claims the alternative NGN proposal: ‘provides for joint control in relation to key aspects of decision making over the FTTN network, thus removing the elements of Telstra’s FTTN model which would be so damaging to competition, while avoiding the lengthy, legalistic, uncertain decision making processes which are a feature of telecommunications regulation today; provides for joint investment, thus allowing for the contribution of substantially greater investment than the AUD3.1 billion proposed by Telstra, and which in turn therefore allows for the FTTN network to have substantially greater reach than the four million service addresses proposed by Telstra; ensures a managed transition from unbundled local loop (ULL) services, not the sudden destruction of it; provides the necessary certainty of outcome to allow an investment in the FTTN network to be justified; allows for the agreement of Telstra’s competitors to be secured, hence allowing rapid industry wide agreement on the arrangements for FTTN rollout instead of a protracted and uncertain legal process; protects and sustains competition; delivers higher bandwidth to more Australians more quickly than Telstra’s model; and ensures that the new high bandwidth network operates under the discipline of competition — thus delivering more innovation, lower prices, better service and greater penetration than Telstra’s model.’ It says it will now start working on issues such as network design, governance arrangements, access pricing and a timeline for construction.

The complete SpeedReach proposal is available via the Optus website: http://www.optus.com.au/dafiles/OCA/AboutOptus/MediaCentre/SharedStaticFiles/SharedDocuments/FTTN_10july_2006.pdf