Telstra will have the technology to deliver up to 25Mbit/s broadband speeds by mid-2006, but when it will be available to customers is uncertain.
Telstra has invested A$210 million in ADSL2+ hardware and software since January. By mid-year, 200 exchanges covering about 500,000 premises will have ADSL2+ capability, at a cost of A$60 million. By mid-2006 the other A$150 million will give ADSL2+ capability to nearly all Telstra's ADSL-enabled exchanges.
ADSL2+ is an international standard configuration and technology that provides speeds up to 25Mbit/s. The Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) plans to release the deployment standards, in order to make ADSL2+ available to service providers, by June this year.
Telecom New Zealand recently told Computerworld that it too was looking at rolling out ADSL2+ as part of its next generation network. Trials are to begin this year with a commercial rollout of equipment, if not actual services, early next year.
A Telstra spokesperson said the telco plans to offer customers up to 12Mbit/s speeds in the near future, though he was unable to give a specific time frame. He says that although Telstra had the technology to offer much greater speeds, it would not do so until there was a business case for delivering a mass-market product.
"The technology is there, but the market is not yet aligned with it," says spokesperson Patrick O'Beirne.
To back up this point, Telstra BigPond spokesperson, Craig Middleton, says only 10% of Telstra's customers were on its highest-speed 1.5Mbit/s plan.
O'Beirne said Telstra would be launching next-generation services such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and Video On Demand that would drive the market for ADSL2+ speeds.
Telstra is also setting itself up for the triple-play market. It is currently trialling fibre technology at two selected sites in Queensland — Brookwater and Emerald Lakes Estate — delivering telephony, broadband data and digital subscription television services to customers' premises over optical fibre.
While Telstra believes that services and products will increase consumer hunger for ADSL2+ broadband, iiNet Managing Director, Michael Malone, said it was all about speed.
"There's very little demand for any product that is not available yet," he says. "Right now, it's all about speed."
iiNet Ltd. is already offering ADSL2 on a trial basis to customers with the appropriate setup. The Perth based ISP bought Ihug last year and is currently looking for a chief operating officer to replace outgoing country manager Guy Nelson.
"Our equipment handles ADSL2 now and is software-upgradeable to ADSL2+ when it is approved," Malone says.
Customers on iiNet infrastructure can currently get up to 12Mbit/s, and Malone said that when ADSL2+ is approved, customers close to their exchange will have access to 20Mbit/s.
Telstra said in a press statement that it would make its ADSL2+ technology available to wholesalers, though no details were available.
"As a wholesale customer, we haven't yet heard anything from Telstra about what this means to wholesale customers," says Malone.
Pacific Internet's General Manager of Technology, Phil Tsakaros, sayhs Telstra's investment should be a good thing for competition and the consumer.
"I would like to see them make products available within 8 months to 12 months though and I would be disappointed if there were still no solid plans after 18 months because by then it will be too late for the market," he says.
Tsakaros says that as soon as a supplier can deliver an ADSL2+ product, Pacific Internet will pass it on to customers.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said that Telstra's investment is significant and welcome to the market, though Wholesalers would not see benefit of it until "the ACCC speed up their five year battle to improve Unconditioned Local Loop Service."
"With the appropriate wholesale regime though, this will be a breakthrough for triple play models. So the future is looking brighter. There are now more than 10 million triple play users in Europe all happened through a combination of ADSL2 and ULLS," he said.