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RealTime IT News

Telstra Forced to Open Copper to DSL by August

Dominant Australian telecommunications carrier Telstra has given in to regulatory pressure and will delay the roll out of its wholesale asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service until it can allow competitor ISPs to also offer DSL over the same network.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has obtained a written assurance from Telstra that it would launch its own ADSL service simultaneously with an "unconditional local loop" (ULL) product. The ULL service will enable ISPs to offer DSL, voice and other broadband connectivity solutions over the copper-based local loop.

The Telstra move was directly caused by the ACCC decision to "declare" the local loop last year. This meant that Telstra, as owner and monopoly provider of services on the copper wire networks between telecommunications exchanges and customer premises, had to offer this "local loop" for use by other providers.

The key part of the declaration was that if the third party providers did not like Telstra's conditions, an arbitrator could be brought in to settle things fairly. Telstra had previously resisted advances from competitors who had wished to offer wholesale high-bandwidth connectivity using technologies like DSL by saying it could not meet its costs without pricing the service prohibitively.

The ACCC said it was "encouraged" by Telstra's assurance, but technical and operational rules to stop carriers disrupting each other's services would not be completed until September, further delaying the technology roll out.

As an adjunct to this discussion, the Internet Industry Association is convening a taskforce for informal discussion between industry members about opening up broadband networks to other service providers.

"We say it has to be ubiquitous, equitable and available to anyone who is in a position to offer services," said Peter Coroneos, executive director of the IIA.

The IIA counts many of the major broadband players among its membership, including Telstra, C&W Optus, Austar, Chello, Fairfax, News Interactive and OzEmail. The taskforce will contain 25 members - reflecting the diverse range of constituencies which stand to win or lose from outcomes in this conflict.

"There is no debate about that, the only question is how to do it," said Mr Coroneos. "For that, you have to look at competition laws, and how they are working in practice."

Mr Coroneos also said Telstra's announcement was "encouraging", but that it would still disadvantage those ISPs who would not able to test their services out before the product was launched.

"It would have been nice to see Telstra unbundling before they started offering services, because other people have the same sort of development times as Telstra does for a new product," he said.