Optus and Elders propose rural broadband

Optus and regional service provider Elders have joined forces in an attempt to grab government funds so they can rollout broadband, voice and data services to regional Australia.

According to a joint Optus and Elders statement, the companies have signed a memorandum of understanding and will bid for a cut of the $878 million federal government funding under the Broadband Connect initiative.

If successful, the pair will mutually invest in, and share network infrastructure for the provision of high bandwidth services.

However, once infrastructure is laid, the two companies will continue to compete against each other in the retail space.

Further to the agreement, Elders will resell Optus wholesale services, including dial-up, broadband, satellite and long-distance and mobile calls.

Perhaps little known in the city - except for its real estate agency network - Elders, a subsidiary of Futuris Corporation, is a rural provider that deals in the sale and supply of farm inputs, agency services in wool, livestock and real estate, financial services including banking (Elders Rural Bank) and insurance (Elders Insurance). It also has an ISP.

An Elders spokesperson said the rural ISP would also resell Optus ADSL2+ services once they were made available later in the year.

The services would be sold through Elders' 400 plus locations in regional and rural Australia.

"Elders involvement as a retailer follows its successful completion of trial programs at a number of its rural branches in 2005," said the joint Optus and Elders statement.

"This partnership will provide Optus and Elders with a unique channel to expand broadband services to under-served areas of Australia," Optus CEO Paul O'Sullivan said.

The companies have not yet finalized technology partners or platforms that would be used to deliver the services.

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