Telstra starts 100Mbps cable upgrade

Australian telco Telstra is pushing ahead with plans to develop its cable network into a super-fast broadband network, having decided not to participate in the government’s next-generation broadband network tender. Work is to begin “immediately” to have its hybrid fibre coaxial cable network in Melbourne upgraded to 100Mbps by Christmas.

Melbourne is stage one of Telstra's deployment of next generation super-fast broadband technologies into its cable network, which already passes 2.5 million homes in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Work will start immediately with the installation of DOCSIS 3.0 software and related infrastructure in the Melbourne cable network. Telstra will invest about $300 million in the cable upgrade this calendar year. The work will increase peak download speeds to 100Mbps, with “potentially” further upgrades to 200Mbps.

A recent upgrade already provides download speeds on the cable network of up to 30Mbps to 1.8 million homes with another 700,000 having access, if they subscribe, to speeds up to 17Mbps.

Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo said "Late last year, Telstra foreshadowed that we would continue our investment in our cable network and, with the DOCSIS 3.0 software now well-established internationally, we have the ability to dramatically increase speeds into Australian homes.

"Melbourne will be the first city to benefit from the cable network's super-fast broadband speeds. This broadband upgrade will bring the next generation of the internet to Melburnians, enabling new work-from-home, learning, security, entertainment, health care and energy-saving choices at home. It will help spawn an innovative, video-based, applications and content services sector in Australia.”

The company came under fire from some in the industry and government for deciding not to particpate in the current tender for government money to build a national high-speed broadband network. Some saw it as irresponsible that the most powerful player in the market was turning its back on the process because it could not get its own agenda met by government. Telstra wanted assurances it would not be structurally separated as ex-state owned telcos elsewhere, such as the UK’s BT, have been.

After handing in a proposal, rather than a detailed bid, and being excluded from the process, Telstra said it would concentrate on upgrading its own networks.

Trujillo said on today’s announcement: "As well as super-fast broadband, it is important that this upgrade will turn the cable network into a two-way, fully interactive platform paving the way to an array of existing and next generation services for customers.

"As Telstra has done with Next G and Next IP in wireless and business broadband, we intend to leverage our cable network to lead the market in providing world leading services to meet our customers' individual needs."

Telstra already offers its 50%-owned pay-TV platform, Foxtel, over the cable network, and plans to add other services such as video-on-demand and high-definition TV once the upgrade is complete.

Trujillo added: "Families will be able to choose a high-definition movie from an online catalogue and download it in a little over a minute to watch on the family's big-screen TV. At the same time, they could watch their favourite sport on FOXTEL in high-definition, with instant match statistics at their fingertips and, in the near future, control of camera angles. Simultaneously, they could share a video file in a high-resolution video conference with friends and family, as well as review test results with their doctor, without leaving home."