Optus waits on key info for NBN talks

Pricing, systems clarification needed before NBN talks progress, according to the telco

Optus refuses to sign a definitive deal with the wholesaler of the National Broadband Network (NBN) until it receives further information and clarification on key issues such as pricing as well as provisioning and operating systems.

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Speaking to 2UE’s Latika Bourke, the telco’s director of Government and Corporate Affairs, Maha Krishnapillai, said Optus was in continued talks with NBN Co around the possibility of a deal in a similar strain to the $9 billion Financial Heads of Agreement the government enterprise business intends to finalise with Telstra by June next year. However, the talks remained “premature”, according to Krishnapillai, and hinged on clarification that would be made available over coming months.

“We just had a return of the Federal Government so we’ve only just had confirmation that the NBN is going ahead,” he said. “We still need to get information on pricing and what price models will be available for us to transit customers potentially across to the new NBN Co. We still need everything: provisioning systems, operating systems etc etc in terms of what we’ll do with migration. It’s a bit premature to say that we are migrating our network when we don’t really know what we’re migrating to.

“When we know what NBN Co will look like we’ll work very hard with the government and NBN Co to work out a logical and orderly transition to the new NBN world.”

That clarification is likely to be revealed soon, with NBN Co chief, Mike Quigley, slated to appear before a Senate Budget Estimates hearing next week to explain key aspects of the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) roll out.

The telco was forced to hose down claims of a deal with NBN Co last week following a “purely speculative” piece in the Australian Financial Review, which claimed the two companies were in advanced talks.

The agreement between Telstra and NBN Co, which has seen recent delays, would allow the wholesaler to utilise existing infrastructure from the incumbent telco while also gaining all of Telstra’s copper and cable-based broadband customers. A deal with Optus would likely result in a similar transition of customers as the NBN is rolled out, but Krishnapillai remained open about whether its existing cable network would be shut down as a result.

“We’ll be using that to offer our customers a whole range of high speed services and get experience if you like starting to build that out, and then over the next few years, as the NBN is rolled out, we’ll make decisions about when it’s appropriate and if it’s appropriate in terms of rolling that into the NBN world,” he said.

Krishnapillai cemented Optus’ support for the NBN during the interview, but said the telco had decided not to trial the network in the Stage 1 sites in Tasmania due to uncertainty around the election, despite continuing consideration into the offering recently. Telstra has been the latest to sign on to the trials, joining Exetel, Internode, iiNet and iPrimus who all currently offer NBN services to some 2000 households in Scottsdale, Midway Point and Smithton.

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