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Telstra opens fibre to competitors

FTTP in South Brisbane, housing estates goes wholesale

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Telstra has managed to avoid having Australia’s competition regulator set the prices of its fibre-to-the-premises networks, with minister Senator Stephen Conroy announcing a regulatory exemption for the carrier’s South Brisbane fibre network.

Several Telstra greenfields fibre sites (where the carrier has installed fibre in new housing estates, and offers its Velocity service) have also received ministerial sign-off.

Under the arrangements, determined on January 9 but only announced yesterday (January 23), Telstra will offer “open access” wholesale services on the networks subject to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission oversight.

Both the carrier and the government will be hoping that the move will defang what had been an unwelcome row over access to Telstra fibre. The argument first blew up a year ago, when the carrier announced that while relocating the South Brisbane exchange, it would also upgrade the entire service area to fibre.

This sparked widespread and ongoing complaints from competitors providing broadband services in the area, since they would lose copper connection to their customers and were unhappy with the commercial terms offered by Telstra.

Even as they signed up to Telstra’s offerings in South Brisbane, providers like iiNet complained that while they could offer high speed services they were excluded from products like IP TV (for example, iiNet’s FetchTV service).

The commercial terms on offer led to the retail sector hoping that the ACCC would intervene with a service declaration – a regulatory instrument that among other things can set the price of wholesale services.

While Telstra has avoided service declaration for now, its competitors will be hoping that the arrangement it has reached with the government, which comes into force in April, will also address their complaints.

Telstra has agreed to publish the details of a reference open-access service (including pricing) on its Website, and will notify the ACCC if it intends to change either the prices or the terms and conditions of the service.

In addition, if Telstra and an access seeker negotiate a variation from the reference offer, the ACCC must be notified. ®

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