Alliance provides broadband at last: Users to optimise ‘three network speeds'

Following years of bated breath, the partnership between Telstra and Fantastic will unlock the floodgates of broadband into Australia, challenging IT managers to integrate their commercial enterprise applications for three speeds - broadband, narrowband and wireless.

Gartner has dubbed this challenge "supranet" - a term describing the provision of a logical network with three speeds of Internet access.

Fantastic Corporation is a global provider of end-to-end broadband multimedia delivery solutions.

An internal six-week trial of Fantastic's software is under way at Telstra via the carrier's SkyConnect satellite service, which Geoff Johnson, program director at Gartner labelled the "hardest trial for Telstra, as it has been traditionally weak in satellite technology".

"Telstra also wants to exploit the Internet for datacasting," he added.

However, he observed the telecommunications giant will have to partner with a content provider to produce a viable datacasting service.

And Fantastic will provide the software platform and solutions that "facilitate the aggregation of content", according to Laurence Cole, Fantastic's director, Australia and New Zealand.

Additionally, Telstra will be able to extend its network offerings to wireless networks through the General Packet Radio Services (GPRS), building up market clout against the likes of Cable & Wireless Optus, Johnson said.

"Telstra will be able to give wireless network users speeds approaching a 56K modem experience," he said.

And finally, Telstra's plans to launch an ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) network in August is well timed, according to Johnson.

However Matt Harris, a Web site analyst, is not so sure the alliance will produce a viable broadband service. "We have problems quantifying Web site download speeds as there are bottlenecks that have nothing to do with network speed," Harris said.

And Telstra's imminent ADSL rollout produces a similar reaction from Harris. "I am sceptical. I hear Telstra will charge abnormal prices for ADSL to some ISPs."

Harris believes his views will be vindicated with virtual networks springing up amongst groups of corporate users who will buy dedicated lines for virtual private networks, rather than rely on ADSL or broadband services.

* Luisa Bustos contributed to this article

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