RealTime IT News

Chariot's Carrier Ambitions Drive Regional Focus

Western Australia-based ISP Chariot Internet is expanding its interests beyond the Internet to encompass general telecommunications carrier services, after gaining a carrier licence from the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).

The licence allows the Australian Stock Exchange-listed Chariot to directly supply telecommunications services to the public and share facilities with other carriers such as Telstra and Optus.

Chariot will use its new capability to first focus service delivery to regional and remote areas of Australia, announcing that it is examining the introduction of high-speed wireless technology to provide Internet connectivity to business and homes in these parts of the country.

"Many customers in remote areas of Australia have difficulty gaining reliable access to the Internet because of poor telecommunications infrastructure and restrictions of copper telephone wires," said Chariot managing director Gary Chua.

Chariot intends to circumnavigate many of these infrastructure issues with wireless or radio technology. While Chariot has not specified a time when such a service will launch, Chua said that the carrier licence was a necessary prerequisite to delivering such services.

"The new licence gives us greatly enhanced capabilities and we are presently examining a number of wireless technologies to determine which would be the most appropriate to integrate into our regional network," said Chua.

Chariot's history is firmly based in regional Australia, with the ISP expanding through acquisition of smaller providers and through its own growth, to become one of the largest regional ISPs in the country with more than 64,000 subscribers and 41 Points of Presence.

Chua said that company intended to build on this ISP history with its carrier and online education businesses. Online education has been a long-held focus for Chariot, with the ISP securing a deal last April with China Online to supply English comprehension and literacy courses to around 22,000 Chinese secondary students.

While Chariot intends to differentiate itself with general carrier services and with the way it intends to deliver Internet connectivity, it is not the first provider to see opportunities in the rural sector. Last December, Australian and New Zealand ISP ihug announced it would offer its Ultra wholesale satellite service to ISPs, a move that had the potential to aid smaller ISPs in rural and regional Australia provide Internet services to their customers (see story).

By setting its sights on obtaining a carrier licence, though, Chariots intentions obviously extend beyond providing Internet connectivity to its regional customers. Chua said that by holding the carrier licence, the ISP would be able to provide high-speed wireless Internet access to businesses, build Voice over IP (VoIP) networks and develop its own fibre optic cables from its PoPs rather than rely on third party providers.

The licence also opens opportunities for Chariot to develop its own mobile phone and cable television/Internet networks, as well as provide broadband Internet links directly to consumers.

Regional areas area appearing to be a booming area of opportunities for ISPs to secure. According to a recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Almost half of Australia's 147,181 farms with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5000 or more owned a computer. Just under 18 per cent of all farms used the Internet, and Internet use increased from 14 per cent of 42 per cent as the level of EVAO increased.