Queanbeyan in the Australian Capital Territory is the site of the latest broadband over powerline initiative, this time bringing in VoIP service provider, Freshtel, to partner with electricity company Country Energy.
While many in the nation focus on point scoring over who will build a new national broadband network, some organisations are getting on with initiatives which could revolutionise the Australian Internet and telephony industries.
While the incumbent and its new competitors are busily trying to get their hands on as much government funding as possible and our esteemed politicians have now realised that technology, in the form of a proposed high speed broadband network is a cudgel they can use to beat on each other, the broadband overpowerline industry continues with its trials in the hope of getting commercial services running that could make much of the current debate somewhat redundant.
As a last mile network, the electricity grid is the most pervasive in the country and if viable broadband services can be combined with reliable telephony services, Telstra’s Golden Egg – its aging, poorly maintained copper network – could be quickly retired.
Country Energy, which manages Australia’s largest power supply network across 95 per cent of New South Wales is the latest to launch a broadband over powerline trial with an announcement that over the six months from May, 300 Queanbeyan area households will trial a services carried over their existing electricity infrastructure.
The electricity supply companies have a significant business rationale for deploying data over powerline. Not only does it hold promise as an additional source of revenue from residential broadband, but operational efficiencies from remote meter reading, diagnostics and monitoring are expected to make the additional infrastructure expense a viable proposition.
This is in stark contrast to the telecommunications industry which has some considerable difficulty in justifying a return on the deployment of high speed broadband to residential customers.
In this latest trial, Freshtel will provide an Internet telephony service to customers participating in the trial. As a part of the trial, the 300 participating households will receive a modem and access to the broadband service and will get a freeBinatone cordless phone plus A$30 per month Freshtel call credit.
John Butkiewicz, CEO of Freshtel Holdings, said this represented not only a great opportunity for Freshtel, but also provided an insight into the potential for widespread Internet telephony uptake in Australia.
“The use of existing infrastructure to provide broadband telecommunications services to country and coastal communities will provide an exciting boost to broadband penetration.
“Broadband usage is a key criterion in the growth of Internet telephony. As high performance broadband becomes more accessible, Internet telephony uptake will increase as consumers and businesses use their Freshtel Internet phone service to drastically cut their telecommunication costs,” he said.
The Country Energy trial is testing technology that will provide households with broadband access up to 40 times faster than a 256Kb ADSL connection.
“Freshtel is very excited to be involved in this trial of leading-edge technology and to work with a partner who is as committed to innovation as we are. Our R&D team will be working closely with Country Energy to monitor and enhance the customer response and technical performance of the voice calls throughout the trial period,” MrButkiewicz said.
Country Energy, which is owned by the NSW State Government, has around 195,000 kilometres of powerlines and 1.4 million power poles, and offers retail electricity in five states and territories. It employs more than 3,900 employees serving more than 870,000 customers.