Australian fixed line incumbent Telstra has revealed that it aims to spend AUD600 million (USD657 million) on upgrading its broadband network with a view to allowing alternative operators to offer a range of new digital communications services. According to The Australian, Telstra will upgrade 1,600 of its local telephone exchanges over the course of the next five years in order to enable them to deliver high quality voice, internet services, EFTPOS (the debit card based system used for processing transactions through terminals at points of sale) and fax over a single broadband connection. The upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of 2011, and when finished around 90% of Australia’s small businesses are expected to have access to the new products.
The telco’s CEO David Thodey pointed to the upgrades as an example of his company’s commitment to small businesses, while the investment arguably marks a new strategy for Telstra as it looks towards life after the migration of customers to the National Broadband Network (NBN), following which it will no longer be the monopoly wholesale provider of broadband services.
In separate but related news, Reuters reports that Telstra is hoping to conclude the much-delayed negotiations with the government over the commercial terms related to the decommissioning of its copper network by the end of this month. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in February 2011 Telstra announced it had finalised ‘key commercial terms’ with the NBN Co, the public-private company set up to oversee the construction and management of the NBN. At that date Telstra said it had provisionally agreed commercial terms relating to copper network decommissioning, dark fibre and duct usage, exchange usage, certain rollout arrangements and other matters with NBN Co, although the pair said that they were still working on completing the associated operational details and ensuring that all contingencies are addressed. It is believed that the government wants to make an announcement regarding a finalised deal as soon as possible after the Federal budget, which is due on 10 May.