Saturday, July 26, 2008

Australia - the slowness of broadband

Broadband timetable still slipping

TELSTRA promises soon to hand vital information about its networks to the government as the deadline for a national broadband network slips further away.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last week admitted bids for the government's $4.7 billion broadband tender wouldn't be due until close to Christmas.

This blew away his original plan which would have seen the tender already awarded and construction of a NBN beginning by year's end.

Telstra spokesman Jeremy Mitchell said yesterday the latest information requested was reasonable and the company would move as quickly as possible to provide it.

Once the government receives this and passes it to other bidders such as the Terria consortium -- which includes Optus -- a 12-week countdown for submissions can begin.

"We can get the information he requires relatively quickly," Mr Mitchell told BusinessDaily yesterday.

It's believed it will take Telstra about two weeks to provide the highly technical information.

It is unclear how long it might then take the government to review it and hand it on to other bidders.

Senator Conroy last week revealed so-called "draft instruments" which describe the type of information it is requesting of Telstra and other telcos to assist bidders.

Bidders have until this Friday to tell the government whether the information requested by the draft instruments is sufficient.

The early signs are that bidders are happy with the level of detail.

"Generally, it looks at first blush to be right," said Optus head of government and corporate affairs Maha Krishnapillai. "Our engineers are looking through some of it at the moment but we think it's ok. The issue is now time."

Mr Krishnapillai said the best case scenario was for bidders to receive the information within three weeks.

This would mean that the due date for NBN submissions is still at least 15 weeks away.

Once proposals are received, a panel appointed by the Federal Government will have two months to consider and make recommendations, meaning that construction of an NBN won't begin until next year.

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