Primus fuels Telstra-Optus feud

Primus took its first step today towards being its own independent service provider, capable of reaching half of Australia. The move has fuelled Telstra's arguments against Optus, which claims it needs regulatory assistance to compete against the national carrier. (See story.)

Primus announced that it would roll out its own high-capacity DSL equipment (DSLAMS) into 300 Telstra exchanges, enabling the Telco to offer voice and broadband over Primus infrastructure and hardware.

Primus claims that moving customers over to its own hardware will provide enhanced and more diverse service options and increased customer support.

"This is the first time that standard fixed-line telephony on a major scale has been offered other than on the Telstra-owned network," said Primus Managing Director Greg Wilson, in a statement released today.

Primus estimates the new investment in infrastructure will see it able to reach half the population in Australia.

"We started in 1996 as a reseller of Telstra services and, over a number of years, have invested an excess of $300 million to build our own extensive broadband, data and voice network around Australia," Wilson said.

"Thus, in 10 years, Primus Telecom has evolved into an independent facilities-based provider of bundled local, long distance, broadband and data services."

In addition to offering fixed-line telephony, the new infrastructure will accommodate the latest broadband technologies including Voice over IP (VoIP), Video-On-Demand, and ADSL2+.

Telstra has used the news as further argument against Optus claiming it needs regulatory assistance in order to compete adequately.

"This underlines how SingTel was more than presumptuous in its call yesterday for a special subsidy from Telstra -- to do what Primus is already doing, without any call for government help as far as I'm aware," said Telstra spokesperson Rod Bruem.

An Optus spokesperson reiterated that Optus would just like to see a fair playing field for all providers.

General Manager of Primus Strategy, Products and Development, Campbell Sallabank, said he would not comment on this aspect, leaving it "for Optus and Telstra to battle out."

Sallabank said that the roll out is significant not because it adds fuel to the argument between Optus and Telstra, but that it means there is now another player in the market to offer consumers affordable alternatives for voice and broadband.

"We're putting our money where our mouth is," he said.