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Optus tackles WA regional areas

CABLE & Wireless Optus and Telstra have been recently chosen by the WA Government to supply data communications services to government agencies in remote areas of the State.

The choice of two carriers should enable businesses, Internet service providers and other organisations to negotiate with competing carriers to obtain better service and prices.

Regional development minister Hendy Cowan said 1,100 agency locations throughout WA would have access to faster and cheaper data communications within eighteen months.

Mr Cowan said low data speeds and distance dependent call rates were two major problems with the delivery systems in many of WA’s regional areas.

He said the choice to use Telstra was based mainly on existing infrastructure. Telstra will use satellite for some of the remote locations.

Optus plans to introduce a satellite-based data communications network – the first time Telstra’s terrestrial network has faced competition.

The government has signed a $6 million development deed with Optus under the State-wide Tele-communications Enhancement Program to assist the construction of capital infrastructure for the service.

Mr Cowan said the WA Government had the option of owning its own data network but decided it was more productive to stimulate competition between carriers and encourage the investment in telecommunications infrastructure.

“A satellite service can give even the most remote locations access to data communications at the same performance and

reasonable cost as places close to Perth,” he said.

Mr Cowan said, in Australia, the use of computers and the Internet was growing faster in regional areas than in cities.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, more than one quarter of households with Internet access in May 1999 were located in regional areas.

Independent research indicated data communications by government agencies would increase by at least 300 per cent during the next three to five years.

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