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Crossed wires leads to court battle over cable

A MINOR court action between two small players in the telecommunications industry has revealed the business of laying cable beneath the streets of Perth is as complicated as the labyrinths created by the work.

This week, Underground Services Australia’s push for a summary judgement in its dispute with Wingside Nominees (trading as the KLM Group) over a $220,000 claim made its first appearance to Perth District Court.

USA initially had included listed junior telco Swiftel as a second defendant in the action, but USA has since discontinued the action against Swiftel, whose lawyer David Vilensky also acts for KLM.

The saga is thought to have begun when KLM won a contract to provide a 15-kilometre fibre optic cable network for Swiftel linking most of the CBD’s major office complexes, including QV1, Central Park and the BankWest Tower.

Laying fibre optic cable beneath Perth’s streets is no easy undertaking. The amount of red tape involved means it can be a six to seven-month job to put a network down the Terraces. Cost escalate from $20,000 per kilometre in rural WA to $150,000 per kilometre or more in central Perth.

Typically, a contractor will sub-contract some, or all, of the work out and, in this case, KLM hired USA to do part of the required work.

During the contract, USA allegedly was approached by AAPT to conduct similar work for it down Murray Street between Milligan and William streets.

USA is believed to have approached KLM and offered it a credit on that section of the Swiftel contract from the monies it would be paid by AAPT.

AAPT confirmed that work was done on that section of Murray Street but would comment no further. It is understood there is no issue between the parties regarding this particular arrangement.

But relations between Swiftel, KLM and USA apparently soured when competing telecommuni-cations provider Uecomm entered the WA market and started using a brand new network about the time Swiftel’s network came online.

Business News sources claim the access points for Uecomm’s network were found right alongside the access points to Swiftel’s two conduits, one of which it planned to lease to other users.

The sources pointed to the similarities in the networks as evidence that they were created at the same time. However, with ongoing legal action, all parties have been extremely guarded in their comments.

USA general manager John Cole confirmed his company has cabling contracts with Uecomm in the northern suburbs and West Perth.

But Mr Cole said he would “rather not comment” when asked directly if his company had laid Uecomm’s cable alongside Swiftel’s.

A Uecomm spokesman also denied the claims, saying Swiftel’s cable was in the ground before it set up shop in Perth and that it purchased its own conduit and laid its own cable.

Swiftel chief executive officer Chris Gale said he could not discuss the matter until he had discussed the matter with his lawyers.

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