OzEmail sealed a lucrative contract with the NSW South Coast Telecommunications Consortium last week to build a multimillion-dollar network infrastructure.
The project -- to link the region's education, council, business and home users -- went to OzEmail, and its new parent company MCI WorldCom.
The contract covers building the ATM-based voice and data backbone network, in consultation with the con-sortium, to connect the University of Wollongong with its new campuses in Nowra, Bateman's Bay and Bega.
As first reported in Computerworld last year, the network will connect consortium members from 169 regional schools, nine TAFE colleges, Bega Valley Shire Council, Eurobodalla Shire Council and Shoalhaven Shire Council. Consortium members said the network will also give it the opportunity to offer voice over IP services.
Phil Herrick, the consortium's project manager and business development manager at Eurobodalla Shire Council, said he is pleased with the decision, describing it as the most cost-effective bid.
While exact details of the project funding are yet to be determined, Herrick said the consortium is looking to the open market for additional investment.
Integral Energy and Great Southern Energy are two companies reportedly interested in the project. "The corporate nature of the network is yet to be decided," Herrick said.
David Fuller, the University of Wollongong's development officer, said the deal is worth "tens of millions of dollars".
As one of the consortium's "anchor tenants", Fuller said the university is impressed with the quick pace of the project's development.
Meanwhile, Herrick said a big driver behind the new network is the ability to almost totally eliminate Telstra's distance-based telecommunications tariffs.
"Country Australians are being ripped off," he said. "We in the country are the ones who are paying for the cost of Australia being a big country."
However, he claimed the network is not designed to directly compete with Telstra, despite plans to extend the network service to individual business and home customers.
"There is no intent to duplicate Telstra's system," he said.
The tender request was issued around October 1998 after the consortium completed an extensive period of investigation starting in late 1997. The project received start-up funding from the federal government's Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund.
The basic voice and data service is expected to be up and running within 12 months, Herrick said.
"It has been an excellent relationship building exercise on the South Coast."