Internode moves ahead with WiMax despite OPEL cancellation

Conroy promises minimum speeds and coverage

Despite the federal government's decision to cancel the OPEL regional broadband agreement, local ISP Internode will continue to extend its WiMax rollouts.

Optus and Elders yesterday confirmed the federal government's decision to cancel the OPEL contract to build a WiMax-based broadband network.

In June last year, Elders' parent Futuris and Optus, in a joint venture called OPEL, were awarded $958 million by the previous government to construct a broadband network for rural and regional Australia.

Internode managing director Simon Hackett said support for its Yorke Peninsula rollout was completely separate from the OPEL deal.

"It's full steam ahead with our regional rollouts," he said.

"The Internode regional rollouts on the Yorke Peninsula and in the Coorong region are completely unaffected and are going gangbusters.

"Our regional partners are flat stick connecting new customers to our WiMax network, so it is delivering the benefits that we are committed to."

WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a telecommunications technology, based on the IEEE 802.16 standard, which can deliver wireless communications over large distances.

Internode has reported that, with good line of sight, its customers are achieving speeds as fast as six megabits s per second at distances up to 30km from the base station.

Internode started construction of its high-speed wireless network in 2005, establishing a series of towers along the "spine" of the Yorke Peninsula, a largely rural area west of Adelaide.

This provides line-of-sight connectivity to coastal communities that are too far from telephone exchanges to use ADSL-based broadband services, for the same price as customers who live in metropolitan areas.

Hackett said wireless broadband would continue to play an important roll in delivering rural broadband services alongside the government's planned Fibre to the Node (FTTN) network.

"FTTN can't work in outback Australia because of the large distances involved, so I strongly suspect that wireless remains the key answer in the bush.

"This may create new regional broadband opportunities for Internode because we know how to do it and make it work right."

Announcing OPEL will not proceed, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), Senator Stephen Conroy, said the OPEL implementation plan submitted on January 9, failed to meet the terms of a contract made with the previous government.

The Rudd Government promised to honour the contract but Conroy claims a condition relating to coverage in the contract will not be met.

The contract stated that OPEL would provide coverage reasonably equivalent to 90 per cent of under-served premises identified by the then Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts as being within its coverage area.

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