Western Power makes communications move

WESTERN Power could offer customers Internet access and even pay television if a quiet experiment in South Perth pays off.

Western Power confirmed that it would be prepared to offer such services to other parts of the metropolitan area if a small-scale underground communications cabling project was successful.

For the past few months it has been installing underground power in both South Perth and Como, putting communications cable conduits along-side its power lines. It also is laying empty communications cable conduits in other areas where it is installing underground power lines.

Western Power manager tele-communications and e-business, Kevan Penter, said the utility would be conducting a pilot of a high-speed telecommunications network in South Perth towards the end of the year.

“The idea will be to try high-speed Internet access and some other communications services, such as pay television, through the network,” Mr Penter said. “The system will also enhance the control and monitoring of the electricity network.

“If this is successful it could mean residents and small businesses in the area will have access to low-cost, high-speed Internet access.

“And if the pilot proves viable it could be spread to other parts of the metropolitan area.”

There is little to stop Western Power growing its business beyond power supply. According to the company overview on its website, Western Power is required under the terms of the Electricity Corporation Act to “act commercially and endeavour to make profits that maximise the long-term value of the Corporation”.

It has already signalled its intention to enter the gas market once the legal restriction protecting AlintaGas’s monopoly to supply domestic cust-omers ends in the next two years.

Utilities entering the communi-cations cable market is not an unheard of phenomenon. TransAct, a now privatised entity, was born from one of Australian Capital Territory utility ACT Electricity and Water business development brainstorming sessions.

It is now a public company that is laying conduits around Canberra’s suburbs.

TransAct spokesman Bob O’Hara said it had not been difficult for the company to attract investors.

However, the cable conduit route can be fraught with difficulties.

The Swiftel-Underground Services Australia saga is still dragging on.

The saga revolves around two communications cable conduits Swiftel had laid under Perth’s CBD. It contracted electrical contractor KLM to lay the conduits. KLM in turn subcontracted the work to USA.

But legal action has resulted from allegations that USA also laid conduit for a rival telco at the same time.

p See State Scene, page 7

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