Telstra will have the technology to deliver up to 25 Mbps broadband speeds by mid-2006, but when it will be available to customers is uncertain.
Telstra has invested $210 million in ADSL2+ hardware and software since January. By mid-year, 200 exchanges covering about 500,000 premises will have ADSL2+ capability, at a cost of $60 million. By mid-2006 the other $150 million will give ADSL2+ capability to nearly all Telstra's ADSL-enabled exchanges.
ADSL2+ is an international standard configuration and technology that provides speeds up to 25Mbps. The Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) plans to release the deployment standards, in order to make ADSL2+ available to service providers, by June this year.
A Telstra spokesperson said the telco plans to offer customers up to 12 Mbps speeds in the near future, though he was unable to give a specific time frame. He said that although Telstra had the technology to offer much greater speeds, it would not do so until there was a business case for delivering a mass-market product.
"The technology is there, but the market is not yet aligned with it," said spokesperson Patrick O'Beirne.
To back up this point, Telstra BigPond spokesperson, Craig Middleton, said that only 10 per cent of Telstra's customers were on its highest-speed 1.5 Mbps plan.
O'Beirne said Telstra would be launching next-generation services such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and Video On Demand that would drive the market for ADSL2+ speeds.
Telstra is also setting itself up for the triple-play market. It is currently trialling fibre technology at two selected sites in Queensland -- Brookwater and Emerald Lakes Estate -- delivering telephony, broadband data and digital subscription television services to customers' premises over optical fibre.
While Telstra believes that services and products will increase consumer hunger for ADSL2+ broadband, iiNet Managing Director, Michael Malone, said it was all about speed.
"There's very little demand for any product that is not available yet," he said.
"Right now, it's all about speed."
iiNet is already offering ADSL2 on a trial basis to customers with the appropriate setup.
"Our equipment handles ADSL2 now and is software-upgradeable to ADSL2+ when it is approved," Malone said.
Customers on iiNet infrastructure can currently get up to 12Mbps, and Malone said that when ADSL2+ is approved, customers close to their exchange will have access to 20 Mbps.
Telstra said in a press statement that it would make its ADSL2+ technology available to wholesalers, though no details were available.
"As a wholesale customer, we haven't yet heard anything from Telstra about what this means to wholesale customers," said Malone.
Pacific Internet's General Manager of Technology, Phil Tsakaros, said Telstra's investment should be a good thing for competition and the consumer.
"I would like to see them (Telstra) make products available within 8 to 12 months though and I would be disappointed if there were still no solid plans after 18 months because by then it will be too late for the market," he said.
Tsakaros said that as soon as a supplier can deliver an ADSL2+ product, Pacific Internet will pass it on to customers.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said that Telstra's investment is significant and welcome to the market, though Wholesalers would not see benefit of it until "the ACCC speed up their five year battle to improve Unconditioned Local Loop Service." (See: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/591649/fromItemId/142)
"With the appropriate wholesale regime though, this will be a breakthrough for triple play models. So the future is looking brighter. There are now more than 10 million triple play users in Europe all happened through a combination of ADSL2 and ULLS," he said.