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Fighting for a bigger piece of the pie

AAPT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Telecom New Zealand. Until 2000 the company operated a satellite business, but since divesting itself of those operations it has focused on optic fibre and wireless networks. The company offers CBD customers what is known as ‘fibre in the sky’, a Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) – a two-way microwave-based radio network. This offers business and government users wireless 2Mbps data, voice and high-speed Internet access backed up by an optic fibre hub. AAPT has installed fibre in 37 buildings in central Perth, and also operates two DSL exchanges in the city.

Amcom is a publicly listed company with its headquarters in Osborne Park. The company owns a fibre optic network that (to date) totals about 300 kilometres of cable around Perth.

This fibre network mainly runs in a north-south line along the Kwinana and Mitchell freeways and, according to Amcom, the branches from this cable offer the potential to reach 80 per cent of the Perth metropolitan area.

Amcom has rolled out cable into about 350 buildings in the CBD area. Its major clients include the WA Health Department, the Justice Department and the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board. The deal with the MCB was signed just last week and will allow the webcasting of funerals to friends and relatives who are unable to attend official services. Amcom also sells Internet access via ADSL and is installing fibre optic networks in Adelaide and Darwin.

Iinet is one of WA’s largest domestic Internet service providers. As well as selling standard ADSL services, iinet recently signed an agreement with Telstra to buy that company’s Layer 2 ADSL wholesale product. Layer 2 ADSL allows ISPs to control their ADSL connections and gather their own information about users without using BigPond’s servers, and means ISPs don’t have to resell a service identical to BigPond.

Optus is Australia’s second largest telecommunications company, but in Perth its broadband services lag behind those it offers on the eastern seaboard. Now owned by Singapore Telecommunications, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, Optus has a fibre optic network in Perth and three other points of presence in WA – Rockingham, Bunbury and Kalgoorlie.

The company recently subsumed its wholly owned subsidiary XYZed into its main business arm after that company installed equipment to facilitate business-class ADSL access from 11 exchanges across Perth, and 103 exchanges across Australia.

Optus does not yet provide a residential ADSL service anywhere in Australia, though it is examining this option. Nor has it rolled out pay-TV cable to compete with Telstra, as it has done in the eastern capital cities. However, Optus’s satellite network gives it blanket coverage of both Australia and NZ.

Swiftel is a publicly listed company that has laid its own fibre optic network around the CBD area. As well as providing carrier-grade broadband access, Swiftel runs a data centre (co-location) business from its headquarters in the QV1 building in Perth.

Swiftel says it has more than 80 corporate clients using its core services, which include the co-location facilities and dark fibre. Dark fibre provides a point-to-point unlit optical fibre pair enabling the installation of any equipment onto the fibre, and data transmission at any rate or with any protocol that equipment will allow. This gives users control over their WAN connections, and the optic fibre is totally isolated from all other networks, except through the user’s own network equipment connected to the fibre. Last November Swiftel commissioned its first regional point of presence (PoP) to Bunbury, and it intends to replicate that action in other regional cities such as Kalgoorlie, Karratha and Port Hedland. Swiftel’s major clients include AlintaGas and Clough Engineering.

Telstra offers the most widely available broadband access in WA, mainly by virtue of its copper telephone line networks.

The company’s BigPond brand is dominant among the residential and small business broadband market, but it loses larger customers to other carriers that can offer more flexible pricing and service deals. BigPond’s primary broadband service is ADSL, which is potentially available throughout most of Perth and in major regional areas like Kalgoorlie, Albany and Bunbury. Telstra also offers broadband access through ISDN services and its pay-TV cable, which passes by about 150,000 homes in Perth’s western and southern suburbs.

BigPond also provides one-way and two-way satellite services throughout WA, while Telstra’s wholesale arm sells access to the company’s copper networks to other Internet Service Providers, thus allowing competition in the ADSL market.

Uecomm is a publicly listed company whose majority shareholder is Melbourne-based power company United Energy. In Perth, Uecomm has rolled out about 200km of optic fibre, comprising a northern metropolitan ring, a southern metro ring and a CBD ring. The company says its ring architecture means customer networks can be constructed with no single point of failure – if one fibre loop fails, user networks can be maintained via one of the other two loops.

As well as the CBD, Uecomm covers major suburban centres including through the domestic and international airports, Canning Vale, Murdoch, Myaree and South Perth in the city’s south, and through Osborne Park, Padbury, Malaga and Guildford on the north side.

p Next week: Not just the Net – broadband’s practical applications for business.

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