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Australia’s not-quite-fledgling National Broadband Network which focuses on fibre-to-the-home isn’t actually the first network of its kind in Australia.

Back in the late 1980s and through into the early 1990s the – then – Telecom Australia Innovations funded and rolled out an identical fibre network. The plan was to act as a wholesale interconnect provider, and allow retail telecommunications, data and television providers to compete for market-share.

I remember this national fibre network, having been associated with it briefly at the time – it’s possible that I might still have some of the network overview documentation stashed in carton somewhere, if it hasn’t been turfed during a house-move.

Internet service wasn’t really much considered a factor in the gigabits-per-second fibre network at the time. There was no Web at the time it was conceived and rolled out, and the then 20-year-old Internet simply wasn’t on most peoples’ radar. The network, however, would have been just about ideal for that.

So, Telecom Australia started rolling it out, and after a rebranding, Telstra finished the job, finishing up with an estimated 93% of Australian homes and businesses.

What happened next? Nothing.

Seems that strategic direction of the company had changed around 1990 – apparently because some executive elements of the company didn’t want to transform the business into solely being an infrastructure provider existing on margins.

No plans were made to use the new fibre network, but millions were still spent in rolling it out. Your street – if it is old enough – probably still has some of that fibre running through it, unless it was pulled up to make way for more copper. There’s fibre in my street that’s been laying there unused for nearly two decades.

Miniscule portions of that network did end up being used for replacing copper trunks between telephone exchanges, but it is uncertain as to what the fate of the rest is. Doubtless the new National Broadband Network will actually be ripping it up and replacing it with the newer fibre lines. I’ve heard some Telstra employees say that exact records of where much of the fibre was placed have been “irrevocably mislaid.”

It all seems such a waste.

Categories: Australia, Telstra.

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