Archive for the 'Telecommunications' Category

Accelerating broadband rollout – initiatives in regional Spain

Peter Gerrand, La Trobe University

Published in the Telecommunications Journal of Australia Vol. 56 Nos. 3 & 4, Spring/Summer 2006, pp. 84-92.


This paper draws attention to some useful initiatives taken by regional governments in northern Spain in solving ‘market failure’ in modern telecommunications. Recognizing that the major carriers will not invest in broadband infrastructure in the less populated rural and remote regions, four regional governments have each invested in PPPs (public-private partnerships) that have been rolling out optical fibre and WiMax radio network infrastructure that is made available as a wholesale service to all interested broadband retailers. The intention is generally to sell the government equity once the rollout task is completed. One of the consequences has been to stimulate aggressive marketing by the incumbent Telefónica, which has increased its broadband access speed offerings four-fold since 2004 for basically the same retail price – while raising its wholesale pricing.

The term ‘two zones’ approach is coined to characterise the glaring dichotomy in Australian telecommunications regulation since 1991 for the city versus ‘the bush’, the latter known more formally in the legislation as RRURA: Regional, Rural and Remote Australia. Large amounts of money, totalling A$3.1 billion, were set aside in the 2005 telecommunications to subsidise infrastructure initiatives to compensate for broadband ‘market failure’. The Spanish examples offer a relevant model by which the Australian Government could invest revenues from its Communications Fund.

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Blues with black spots

Cartoon for Blues with Black Spots

First published in TJA Vol 56 No 1 2006 pp.34-35

The federal government has committed billions in recent years to improve communications for rural and regional Australians. But insufficient has been done to address service inequalities that have bedevilled residents and businesses in outer urban areas for at least 30 years.

Take the following entry in The Latham Diaries for example.

Tuesday, 22 August 1995

“Another blue with Michael Lee, this time over the (046) telephone zone in the southern part of my electorate. Whitlam and Kerin banged on about this for years with no success. Why should people in outer metropolitan areas have to pay STD rates when the unit cost to Telstra is the same right across Sydney?”

So even the highly reformist Whitlam government was out-manoeuvred by the wily managers of the Post Master General’s Department – no doubt working within tight capital borrowing limits in those departmental days.
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Cultural diversity in Cyberspace

See “Cultural diversity in cyberspace: the Catalan campaign to win the .cat top level domain”.


In September 2005 ICANN approved the first top–level Internet domain to be dedicated to a particular human language and culture: ‘.cat’. This paper describes the history of the Catalan campaign to win the ‘.cat’ domain against political opposition from the former conservative Spanish government and the reluctance of some decision–makers within ICANN circles. While ‘.cat’ creates a precedent for greater use on the Internet of ‘minority languages’, there are significant hurdles for other candidates for language–based top–level domains. The paper discusses the concomitant factors needed to support the greater use of any minority language on the Internet.A version in Catalan can be found at a much shortened version in Galician at

Link to Technorati

The Telstra challenge: Fixing the anomalies before T3

This article appeared as an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review on 18 February 2005

The rise in the Telstra share price close to $5.25 should have the Federal Treasurer excited. The T3 sale should inject at least $30b into federal revenues, possibly $35b if Telstra sells Sensis first.

Yet once Telstra is fully sold, the government – losing annual dividends exceeding $2b – will have to find other funding sources to rectify the regional inequities in telecommunications services. Not just in the bush, but also at the fringes of Sydney and Melbourne. And no once-off investment will fix this.

Telstra is a moneymaking machine, returning 80% of its profits in dividends to its shareholders. It has achieved this by underspending on telecommunications infrastructure, especially on broadband access. A fully privatised Telstra will even more aggressively maximise its short-term profit at the expense of other goals. That expectation is already lifting the Telstra share price.

The full sale of Telstra is probably unstoppable, but it is in the national interest to improve the regulatory environment before the T3 sale. After T3, Telstra will be able to use its huge cash flow to acquire a TV network and – if cross-media ownership rules are relaxed – a newspaper chain as well. That will enable Telstra to integrate its advertising streams and content, and bundle its products. In the process, it will become Australia’s dominant cross-media player. Telstra will then have more political influence in Australia than Packer or Murdoch.

So what are the structural anomalies that need to be fixed prior to T3?
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Revisiting the Structural Separation of Telstra

From the Telecommunications Journal of Australia,
Vol. 54 No.3, Spring 2004. pp.15–28


This paper reviews the arguments for and against the ‘vertical’ structural separation of Telstra, following the apparent failure of nominal ‘accounting separation’ as a regulatory means for ensuring fair and equitable provision of Telstra’s wholesale pricing to itself and to its competitors.

The paper argues the several national benefits of a government buy-back of Telstra’s fixed wholesale network business, and suggests a new solution as to how this might be achieved at affordable cost and without excessive political risk.

The paper also spells out the implications of the opposite eventuality, the complete privatisation of Telstra, and why this would not be in the national interest.

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