Put out by the top hat

Telstra is installing TopHats across the country to resolve the broadband-blockage issue presented by remote integrated multiplexers (RIMs). The Competitive Carriers Coalition believes that this raises a question about competitive equivalence.

Across Australia, there are thousands of RIMs that have historically done a great job of improving the quality of phone calls for households a fair distance from the phone exchange. They created a problem, though, for the roll-out of broadband, blocking the transmission from a DSLAM in an exchange and the customer premises. Now Telstra is fixing the problem with TopHats; DSLAM equipment that sits above the RIM cabinets.

On this week’s Twisted Wire podcast, Mike Wright, Telstra’s executive director of Networks and Access Technologies, says that there are 550 TopHats to date, with plans to install 2000, serving 130,000 households.

Whilst that’s great news for homes that now have access to higher broadband speeds, it raises questions about the relevancy of existing regulation. Assuming that this new equipment is VDSL capable, could Telstra flick a switch to turn it on, and, if so, what are their obligations to provide equivalent access?

Matt Healy, chair of the Competitive Carriers Coalition, said that it’s an example of how Telstra has a competitive advantage in the delivery of higher-speed access, along with its upgraded cable network. He’s also concerned that the TopHat roll-out is potentially the start of a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) approach “by stealth”, which could influence opposition policy towards broadband.

First published on ZDNet

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