Optus began as a consortium between a handful of Australian investment groups, comprising just over 50% ownership, and about a quarter each to Cable and Wireless (UK) and Bell South (US). It debuted in 1990 as the first retail competitor to Telstra, the privatized spin-off of Telecom Australia, the incumbent government telco. Optus itself inherited Aussat, the government satellite communications network. As such, Optus and Telstra circle each other as the favoured and…less favoured inheritors of government infrastructure.
Optus struggled early on to avoid merely becoming Telstra’s largest customer. It would take a long time and a lot of money to build a fixed-line infrastructure like Telstra had, with no guarantee of returns. So to get around this issue, Optus began constructing a Hybrid-Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) network at a cost of $6bn. The network would extend high capacity fibre-optic cable to streets in metro areas, and then use coaxial copper cable to carry the connection to homes. The main purpose of the Optus network was to carry cheap telephony and Pay TV, with high speed broadband added later on. Telstra responded with its own network in almost the exact same footprint. Once ADSL (for broadband) and satellite (for Pay TV) became available, both companies halted their rollouts, leaving Optus with something of a redundant network.
Optus by then was mostly owned by Cable and Wireless, and was running out of steam. C&W sold off its controlling stake to SingTel, Singapore’s mobile juggernaut with over 400 million subscribers. Optus’ profile changed to a mobile strategy.
Optus has since focused on 3G mobile voice and broadband, and become the largest wholesaler to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). Optus has recently inked an $800 million deal to migrate its remaining 500,000 Cable customers from Cable to the NBN. Optus' ADSL2+ network remains the smallest out of the Big 4, but combining the strength from Mobile and Cable still makes it Australia’s 2nd largest telecommunications group, with nearly 10 million total subscriptions across all services.
• Provides mobile, ADSL2+ and Cable connections
• ‘Triple Play’ provider, capable of delivering phone, internet and pay television
• Naked option available, with no home phone service attached
• Mix of Australia-based and offshore support, leading to inconsistencies with service
• Plans are often confusing and full of obscure conditions
• Will not offer off-net service on Telstra DSLAMs, making them the least widely available of the big 4 ISPs
Optus 30GB Home broadband ADSL2+ for $55 per month for 24 months.
Plan includes 30GB of data, no on and off peak times, no home phone service required.
$70 set up fee, included modem for new customers.
Minimum total cost for 24 months $1410.
Optus is the only large ISP (in fact, one of the only ISPs) that doesn’t offer ‘off-net’ services. For fixed-line broadband, Optus can offer ADSL2+ at 350 exchanges, and Cable to over 1 million homes, but the company no longer leases Telstra connections outside its own network. Optus also resists offering Cable connections in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) like apartment blocks, even if the cable run pasts the address. As such, the company enjoys the odd distinction of being the least widely available ISP on a national level.