Update: TransACT launches in Canberra

TransACT Communications, a new operator owned by the ACT Electricity and Water Authority, yesterday launched a network intended to provide high-speed video, data and telephony to Canberra.

As reported last week, the new network follows an eight-month field trial at 200 residences in the suburb of Aranda. Eventually 96,000 homes and 15,000 businesses will be connected.

At yesterday's launch, ACTEW chief executive John Mackay said: "Canberra boasts the highest number of internet connections per capita in Australia -- and we are going to make it 200 times faster."

TransACT chief executive officer Richard Vincent announced initial rollout and ongoing consumer price structures, which vary with the level of service desired. For a consumer to receive all three categories of service (telephony, data and video) during the initial rollout, the installation cost will be $149, or $249 after the initial phase.

Monthly rental prices also reflect the variety of services and performance levels on offer, ranging from $12 a month for simple telephony to $290 a month for high-end (up to 10MB) data services with permanent connection via Ethernet modem. Compared to ISDN, for example, such a service would provide eight times faster uploads and 80 times faster downloads.

The initial phase of the rollout will connect universities and hospitals. Business and then residential addresses will follow. The system will "go live" in stages: some larger corporate and government customers may be connected for telephony and videoconferencing late this year. The bulk of the network will switch on in the first quarter of 2001, and the rollout should be 95 per cent complete by the end of 2002.

It was announced that Marconi has been selected as the preferred supplier for the broadband part of the network, and Nortel Networks for the narrowband portions.

Content providers are lining up to participate. Early entrants include Ezy+, which will offer feature films, computer games, infotainment and educational programs, and a joint venture between Video on Demand and Civic Video to provide video on demand.

Other providers with which TransACT is negotiating for different forms of content and services include UUNet, Ninemsn, Connect.com, the NRS Group, OzEmail, Asia on Line, Eisa Dynamite, Spirit.com, and broadcasters ABC and SBS.

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