ACT gets broadband links

Despite missing out on the pay TV rollout, Canberra will have access to multimedia providers through a communications network rollout expected to be finalised within 18 months.

New telecommunications player TransACT Communications, an initiative started four years ago out of the ACTEW (ACT Electricity and Water) Corporation, will deploy an open network broadband connection offering telephony, video and high-stream Internet services.

Robin Eckermann, chief architect for TransACT Communications, said: "2.7 million Australians have access to pay TV, but 4.3 million have no true broadband solution on the horizon; an open network is fundamentally the only sensible solution Australia can afford. We can't afford to have two companies implementing cable infrastructure; competition doesn't work in the last mile of network access."

The company is looking to sign up an infinite number of Internet service providers (ISPs) and pay TV operators as the company does not plan to compete with its third-party distributors.

The company raised $150 million to underpin the rollout, with two-thirds in equity and one-third in debt. Eckermann said the ACT government's exposure to the venture is under $30 million. Investors include TGV from Hong Kong, AGL, Marconi, ACTEW and a small group of local investors.

Eckermann confirmed there has been keen interest from both ends of the pipe with a number of ISPs coming on board, including AsiaOnline; major commercial pay TV operators and boutique operators, and a subsidiary of Civic Video which will be offering video on demand.

The pipe will be rented directly to the customer who will then buy the content and services from third-party service providers.

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