The Australian telecommunications industry revolves around Telstra, which is involved in almost every connection - regardless of whether or not you have any retail services with them. The company is the privatized spin-off of the government Telecom network, and since 1990 has enjoyed a position as both a massive retailer (through its Telstra Home, Telstra Mobile and BigPond brands) and as Australia’s primary wholesaler of national (and even international) connections.
For broadband, Telstra offers a Hybrid-Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) cable network, which passes by 1.5 million homes. The company also operates a network of DSLAMs connected to almost every active exchange in Australia (2000+), from which they provide retail BigPond connections and wholesale connections for most other ISPs. BigPond also owns the exchanges, and makes money from other ISPs housing their own DSLAM connection points.
For mobile broadband, Telstra operates the deepest, densest and widest 3G network, and the only up and running 4G network to date.
But the real control of every connection comes in Telstra’s ownership of the Copper Access Network (CAN). This is the fiendishly difficult “Last Mile” network, connecting each exchange to the 10 million+ premises (homes and businesses) in Australia. So imagine it like this: There are about a dozen cables that connect Australia to the rest of the world. There are about 50 interstate transit links that connect the country.
There are over 2000 exchanges that connect each neighbourhood. Other ISPs can compete up to that level. But when trying to build connections to each and every home? No-one can compete with Telstra. Telstra reaches down to one in every 2 Australians: iiNet/Internode and TPG, with DSLAMs reaching to 400 exchanges each, reach Aussies at a rate of about 50,000 at a time.
As such, every ISP providing ADSL must rent a ‘last-mile’ connection from Telstra. This means that Telstra still earns money even when you don’t have services with them.
Telstra’s days as wholesaler and retailer has an end date, the earliest of which is 2018. The current Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) will require Telstra to decouple its wholesale and retail arms from each other by then. Customers within the footprint of the National Broadband Network (NBN) must be migrated; those still to be connected will remain on copper cables. But the wholesale owner of the copper (Telstra Wholesale) will need to sell access to BigPond and Telstra Home at the exact same rate as they do to anyone else. As such, it’s expected that at some point, one of these entities will change their name.
For now though, Telstra is a unified giant, one that provides most of Australia’s internet, one way or another.
• Wide availability of connections, almost double the closest competition
• ‘Triple Play’ provider, capable of delivering phone, internet and pay television
• Australia-wide network of retail storefronts
• No Naked option - mandatory phone line included
• Mix of Australia-based and offshore support, leading to inconsistencies with service
• Plans are typically much more expensive than the competition
T-Bundle Connector Edge - $141/month, 24 month contract
Includes 500GB data (no peak or off peak) + Unlimited local and STD calls + T-Box Pay TV service
Min cost is $3428.95
(includes $35 upfront and $9.95 delivery) plus usage
As the incumbent last mile provider, Telstra offers ADSL2+ connection to everyone who can actually get it, meaning anyone with a standard phone line and within a 4.5km radius of their telephone exchange. For those who don’t fit in that category, Cable may be available, although the vast majority of Cable connections overlap with wide ADSL coverage. Outside these areas, Telstra NextG and 4G networks provide the highest quality mobile broadband and voice services currently available, although Vodafone has been upgrading its 3G network to match NextG, and Optus and Vodafone will work together to compete with Telstra’s 4G network.