Telstra delays copper phase-out
Mon, 12 Oct 1998 10:37:39 +1000
Telstra delays copper phase-out
By Grant Butler
Telstra has avoided regulatory censure by offering telecommunication
and internet service providers a year's grace before phasing out
lines used by such companies to offer cheap, high-speed
At issue is whether telecommunication service providers (SPs) and
ISPs can continue to use copper phone lines for around $1,500 per
year to achieve such speeds or whether, due to technical
constraints, they should move to more expensive services priced at
The issue has implications for consumers because any increase in
costs to service providers would be passed on directly. The
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is examining the
The decision to give existing users of such services, which also
include groups that operate security and fire alarm systems, another
year is understood to have been hammered out in difficult
negotiations between Telstra's wholesale, retail and regulatory
The permitted attachment private lines (PAPLs) are normal copper
phones leased on an annual basis by SPs and ISPs. By placing
modem-like equipment at both ends of such lines, they can send up to
30 phone calls or 2 megabits per second of data cheaply between two
Major corporates also use the lines to connect offices and other
facilities within range of a common Telstra exchange.
According to Telstra: "Existing wholesale customers already using
PAPLs to provide other downstream services can apply to receive the
benefit of a copper path continuity safeguard while they make
"Telstra is firm in its view that this is not a long-term solution,"
it added in a statement released on Friday. "Telstra is exploring
alternative product developments and is working with the industry to
develop appropriate standards."
Mr Allan Horsley, the managing director of the Australian
Telecommunications Users Group, said yesterday that there was no
need to wait for further standards to be developed because there
were available existing standards developed by the European
Telecommunications Standards Institute.
The dispute arose when Telstra announced it would phase out PAPLs
because it was installing fibre-optic technology into its network.
PAPLs only work if electricity is flowing through them from
end-to-end and that requires a continuous copper connection.
"As we upgrade the network we can't guarantee that there's going to
be copper from one end of the network to the other," said Mr David
Stokes-McKeon, the managing director of Telstra's internet and data
However, many SPs and ISPs maintain that 80 per cent of the phone
network is still copper, therefore Telstra is decommissioning the
services prematurely. Some have even suggested that Telstra is
purposely, and anti-competitively, targetting specific SPs and ISPs
with the new fibre.
The South Australian Internet Association, for instance, has pointed
to the fact that Telstra is trialing a technology called ADSL
(asynchronous digital subscriber line) which can deliver data at up
to 6 megabits per second over copper phones - but also requires a
continuous electric current.
Wider industry reaction was mixed yesterday. Most players welcomed
the reprieve but some felt that the larger issue of whether or not,
in the newly deregulated marketplace where virtually every company
is in some way dependent on Telstra's network, the carrier should be
allowed to change its network at will.
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously
considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of
no value to us."
--Western Union internal memo, 1876.