Optus: from duopoly to open slather

In part two of the Optus story, Twisted Wire tracks the telco’s history through the years of intensified competition, and asks, will it last another 20 years?

Last week we heard how the company came close to liquidation because of the ill-fated decision to roll out a hybrid-fibre coaxial network. This week we hear how that experience signalled to the regulator that Australia cannot support two fixed-line access networks. It almost certainly contributed to the decision to open access to Telstra’s copper network, with the wholesaling of unconditioned local loop from 1999. Thank you, Alan Fels.

But that means Optus now faces many new competitors. That’s not a problem, according to Andrew Sheridan, Optus general manager of interconnect and economic regulation: “competition is in our DNA,” he says.

Yet iiNet is now proudly promoting that when it comes to DSL connections, it is second only to Telstra. So this week, whilst we trace the second part of Optus’ history, we ask “is there enough that’s different about the company for it to hold its place as Australia’s number two telco?”

As well as Sheridan you’ll hear from Optus CEO Paul O’Sullivan, together with former Optus execs John Filmer and Chris Hancock (now CEO of AARNet). Ovum telco analyst David Kennedy helps us to piece together the history. You can read more in his report, commissioned by Optus, “Unfinished Business” — 20 years of competition in Australia’s telecommunications sector.

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