Technology researcher IDC says Telstra's decision to switch on superfast
broadband in 900 exchanges in provincial and rural Australian towns may
trigger a chain of events that could lead to Vodafone exiting Australia.
Telecommunications programme manager David Cannon says Telstra's promise
might result in Optus reviewing its plans to build out its 3G phone network
to 96 per cent of Australians.
"IDC believes Vodafone may need to re-evaluate its plan to build out its own
3G coverage through its network agreement with Optus."
The researcher says in a report that there is "a potentially 'bigger
picture' situation evolving".
"At its most extreme, the Optus delay could result in Vodafone reassessing
its commitment to the Australian 3G mobile market - either triggering
another network partnership or a possible exit."
Former communications minister Helen Coonan approved a grant of almost A$1
billion (NZ$1.1 billion) to Optus and Elders for a joint venture to build a
"wireless bush broadband network", but the grant is in doubt after John
Howard's election loss.
Telstra made its commitment to turn on ADSL2+ fixed-line broadband systems
outside major urban centres after the new Labor government said it saw "no
compelling case" to give competitors access to the equipment.
IDC forecasts the Opel joint venture may fall victim to belt- tightening, as
the Australian government sought to cut spending by A$10 billion to rein
Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners denied rumours last
year that Vodafone had considered selling its Australian and New Zealand
operations to Singtel, which owns Optus.