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20 years of competition: part one

It’s 20 years this week since Optus was granted its licence — on Twisted Wire we look back at the early days.

On 19 November 1991 Optus was awarded a carrier licence, launching a new fixed line and mobile competitor to Telecom — it was long overdue. These were the days when a call to the UK cost $1.40 per minute, the equivalent of $2.30 in today’s money.

Talking at a CEDA (the Committee for Economic Development of Australia) lunch last week, Optus CEO Paul O Sullivan said it’s now 20 years “since the party started”. We hear some of his talk in this episode of Twisted Wire.

John Filmer, a senior executive of Optus for 10 years, says the story really started when the government established Aussat. Taking on the fledgling operation and its $800 million debt was part of the condition of the Optus licence.

But the new carrier was to lose even more on its failed OptusVision experiment. The roll-out of a hybrid-fibre coaxial network, replicated by Telstra, demonstrated the importance of regulation in an industry dominated by a cash-rich incumbent. Andrew Sheridan, Optus general manager interconnect and economic regulation, discusses the role legislation and regulation played in the history of the company.

Ovum research director and telco analyst David Kennedy helps us trace the last two decades. He has just completed a new Ovum report, commissioned by Optus, called “Unfinished Business” — 20 Years of competition in Australia’s telecommunications sector.

First published on ZDNet

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