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Tuesday, 23 October 2007 18:10

Opel? It doesn't exist yet

Communications minister, Helen Coonan, has lost no opportunity to spruik progress with Opel, the Optus-Elders joint venture which has received almost $1 billion of Government funding to rollout wired and wireless broadband in regional and rural Australia, but a senior Optus executive says the entity exists to date in name only and that funding is contingent on Optus proving that the technology can deliver.

Peter Ferris, Optus' general manager, technology and planning, told Terrapin's WiMAX conference in Sydney that: "Opel does not exist as a technological entity at this point in time, it is only a trade mark so I cannot talk about Opel. I can only talk about Optus."

When asked by iTWire if he could give a timeframe for Opel coming into being, Ferris replied: "I cannot. There are a number of conditions [to be met]. It has no staff and I am not officially allowed to refer to it in any way shape for form. But Optus and Elders are searching for a CEO for this hypothetical organisation and we are doing testing in WA and NSW to provide certified results. Once the Government is satisfied with those and signs the require bond document to fund this organisation called Opel [it will be formed]."

However, communications minister, Helen Coonan, announced on 9 September that "the funding agreement for a new national high speed broadband network has been signed with Opel Networks, a joint venture between rural group Elders and Optus." She added: "Opel has already commenced work on establishing its new scalable, state-of-the-art WiMAX, ADSL2+ and fibre wholesale network that is targeted for completion by June 2009."

When she announced Opel as the winner of the Broadband Connect Funding in June, Coonan said she expected the first services to come online in September.

In another announcement on 29 September, Coonan said she had "launched an OPEL ADSL2+ exchange that will deliver speeds of up to 20Mbps in Woy Woy on the New South Wales Central Coast." She claimed that this was the result of the Opel funding agreement. "In June the Australian Government announced the Australia Connected programme and we are already switching on exchanges and delivering for consumers."

However from then on the minister's release blurred the boundaries between Opel ADSL exchanges and Optus ADSL exchanges. She said: "Today I am also announcing that ADSL2+ has been enabled in Cardiff, Hamilton and Corrimal in New South Wales. We are getting on with the job of rolling out broadband around the country, this exchange today[in Woy Woy] has been enabled by Optus as part of its commercial contribution of 426 super fast ADSL2+ broadband exchanges and 1361 state-of-the-art WiMAX base stations."

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