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INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Australia

Sat, 06/30/2007 - 8:30pm
Compiled by Traci Patterson, Web/News Editor

INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: AustraliaFor the majority of Australia’s telecommunications history, infrastructure was built, and carriage was provided by the government-owned, and therefore taxpayer-funded, Telstra. In 1997, the country’s telecom market was deregulated, and last year, the government sold off its majority share of Telstra, now the incumbent telecom operator.

Due to the approaching federal election, Internet access has become a hot political topic, especially since Australia’s broadband speeds lag well behind other industrialized nations.

In June, the government awarded $814.5 million to an Optus JV for the rollout of broadband Internet in rural areas of the country. The government has also outlined plans to set up a panel that will assess competing bids for the rollout of a high-speed, fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) network in metropolitan areas.

Both Telstra and the Optus-led G9 consortium are vying to build the fiber optic network, but Telstra has called off talks with the competition regulator – the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) – after a price-related disagreement.

Australia’s cable TV service emerged in the early ’90s. Foxtel was the first cable operator to offer digital services, in March 2004. After others followed suit, the adoption rate soared. But cable is still the minority means of receiving access to subscription TV in Australia, where satellite leads.

What follows are some brief statistics and a peek at Australia’s major broadband players.

Australia broadband stats

  • Population: 20.9 million
  • 3.9 million broadband subs*
  • 3.1 million dial-up subs*
  • 14.7 million Internet users*

Austar

  • Headquarters: Sydney
  • Provides mobile, dial-up Internet and digital satellite TV services.
  • 619,360 TV subs**
  • In June, selected Nortel’s solutions for its proposed WiMAX network in regional Australia.
  • Liberty Global Inc. holds an indirect controlling stake in the company.

Foxtel

  • Headquarters: Sydney
  • Offers digital cable and satellite services.
  • Connected to more than 1.33 million homes for cable and satellite through retail and wholesale distribution.
  • Available to more than 70 percent of Australian homes.
  • First Australian operator to launch digital cable, in March 2004.
  • 100 percent digital as of February.
  • Owned by Telstra Corp. (50 percent), News Corp. (25 percent), and Publishing and Broadcasting (25 percent).

Neighbourhood Cable

  • Headquarters: Ballarat
  • Offers cable TV, VoIP, and wireless, dial-up and ADSL broadband Internet services.
  • SelecTV
  • Headquarters: Sydney
  • Provides digital satellite TV services via Intelsat.
  • Launched service in 2005.

Optus

  • Headquarters: Sydney
  • Wholly-owned subsidiary of SingTel.
  • Provides mobile, telephony, Internet, satellite and subscription TV services.
  • 6.74 million total subs**
  • 781,000 broadband subs**
  • 445,000 3G subs**

Telstra

  • Headquarters: Melbourne
  • Offers mobile, telephony and Internet services, and distributes Foxtel’s and Austar’s cable TV services.
  • 4.3 million broadband subs*
  • 9.86 million fixed line subs*
  • 309,000 Foxtel pay-TV-bundling subs*
  • 38,000 Austar pay-TV-bundling subs*
  • Entered three-year R&D agreement with Alcatel-Lucent in June to improve its network.
  • Recently announced plans for a cable to Hawaii, to reduce its dependency on foreign-owned cables.

TransACT

  • Headquarters: Dickson
  • Provides digital TV, Internet and telephony services.
  • Recently launched 3G services.

* As of December 2006

** As of March 31

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