utilities unite for bush net

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    Utilities unite for bush net
    NOVEMBER 23, 2005

    A MASSIVE telecommunications project run by a consortium of Australian electricity utilities is exploring a new way of delivering broadband services to regional Australia.

    Eleven of the country's electricity utilities have formed a group known as Utilitel, which is investigating ways to increase the value of their infrastructure.

    Fierce competitors in the electricity market, the utilities are looking at sharing ideas - and their fibre cable - to create a network that could one day be offered to, or rival, Telstra's broadband service.

    Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde, who is acting as an adviser to Utilitel, yesterday said the group was involved in 45 projects around the country.

    "It is becoming clear that there is an opportunity to benefit everybody in regional Australia who wants broadband," Mr Budde said.

    He said the network would benefit those internet service providers that were having trouble accessing Telstra's copper network.

    "There is of course an increasing problem in getting access to the Telstra network," Mr Budde said. "You really need some national infrastructure-based competition and Utilitel is going to do this."

    He said the group would probably move slowly as it considered which services it could offer.

    "Utilitel is providing a platform for all of the individual utilities to understand what it is all about and learn from each other," he said.

    "They can then use that knowledge in their local area and start implementing telecommunications network and telecommunications services.

    "I'd prefer to take the slow approach, rather than now having to come up with a model ... the goal of this is to create more broadband networks in regional Australia."

    Greg Story, general manager of electricity provider and Utilitel member ETSA Telecom Adelaide, said the group was formed in 2000.

    "Five years ago we came together and started sharing information in relation to telecommunications," he said.

    Other members of the group include Aurora Energy, Country Energy, Transgrid, Energy Australia and Western Power.


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