Broadband network planned, by Request

Perth-based network provider Request DSL has announced plans to build a national broadband ADSL network and will list on the ASX later this year.

The company yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cisco Systems for the provision of ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) technology for the network.

Under the three-month MOU deal, Request will work with Cisco and selected partners to roll out the service across Australia and finalise plans for the IPO, said Ross Smith, director of Request.

Smith could not outline the cost of the network construction but said the planned IPO would seek to raise funds to cover the costs. "The MOU enables Request and Cisco to work closely to finalise capital raising," he said.

Smith said the service, which will be targeted at "sophisticated internet users", is expected to become available by September this year. To attract users, Smith said the company is considering marketing deals such as offering $700 ADSL modems free to customers who sign up for the service for 12 months.

"Businesses in the suburbs, and mums and dads will be our main subscribers."

ADSL technology offers a substitute for fibre-optic networks which are not cost-effective in suburban areas, he said. The technology boosts the capacity of traditional copper wire networks, allowing transmission speeds up to 150 times faster than current modem and ISDN lines.

Smith said Request's partnership with Cisco will enable the deployment of future applications such as voice over IP and video on demand to be transmitted over the ADSL network.

ADSL services have already experienced significant success in the US, Europe and New Zealand, Smith said. Three ADSL network operators in the US have together created a $US15 billion market with around 330,000 customers in the last year. "The forecast growth (in the US) by this time in 2003 is expected to reach 9.3 million subscribers."

Meanwhile, Pilbara Mining's proposed acquisition of 80 per cent of Request is expected to be finalised by the end of March. The acquisition, which was announced last month, is awaiting shareholder approval.

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