South Australian telco Agile Communications has launched a $2 million broadband telecommunications network.
Using voice over-IP (VoIP) technology, it is Australia's first intra-state, publicly available network, the company says.
Agile plans to extend the network, which was partly funded by $1.3 million in grants from the Federal Networking the Nation program, to other states.
Simon Hackett, the company's managing director, said the rural South Australian network "tells Telstra that the last terrain where there is no competition, namely intra-state telecommunications, has finally been broken".
"We have effectively built a 'new road' rather than just reselling Telstra services. We are in control of the recurrent running costs of the network, which is why we can halve the cost of [long-distance] phone calls for subscribers in the first instance, with further rate cuts to follow," Hackett said.
The service will initially be accessible via prepaid calling cards, with plans to release other mechanisms to access the network. The towns are linked by five Alcatel carrier-grade microwave towers in the Coorong municipality and another two towers that connect the network to Adelaide.
In each town, nodes provide additional microwave links to connect to the tower network. These nodes house Cisco broadband data networking switches and VoIP systems that interconnect with the existing Telstra network in each town.
For data alone, Coorong District Council expects to save $11,000 annually in recurring telecommunication costs to connect its offices in three towns via the network, as well as substantial savings for voice calls to these offices and Adelaide.
The council's information services coordinator Kym Cleggett said internal data communications now work 30 times faster at 40 per cent of the previous cost.
"The new network will also provide people in the community with choices, which aren't usually available to regional communities," he said.
"Some farmers and businesses are paying in excess of $2000 a year in phone bills, which could be reduced by as much as 50 per cent."