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Telstra laughs as Optus goes bush

Optus' plans to extend its 3G network into rural areas to cover 96 percent of the Australian population were met arrogantly by Telstra on Wednesday.

Jeremy Roche

commentary Optus' plans to extend its 3G network into rural areas to cover 96 percent of the Australian population were met arrogantly by Telstra on Wednesday.

"To compare this network to Telstra's is like comparing a single-engine propeller plane to a 747 jet," a Telstra spokesperson said, claiming that the telco's recently launched Next G network is bigger, faster, stronger...

No matter how much Telstra's spin doctors choose to downplay the move, the expansion by the number two telco Optus into the bush creates much-needed competition and will finally bring a choice of telecommunications companies to millions of rural residents and businesses.

With Telstra having a monopoly over many non-metropolitan areas, rural CNET.com.au readers often email us to vent their frustration at the poor network coverage and customer service they receive from the incumbent telco -- a mixture of mobile, landline, broadband service complaints.

Optus' 3G network expansion will start in 2008 and unfortunately isn't due for completion until 2010. Once ready, however, Optus will launch national 3G voice and data services with HSDPA-enhanced peak speeds of 3.6Mbps, with plans to increase it to 14.4Mbps, as the technology is made available.

Hearing Telstra's pompous mine-is-faster-than-yours retort to Optus plans irks me -- I'd rather reach the outback travelling in Optus' single-engine plane if it was a case of getting champagne on arrival, first-class seating and a lower price, compared to having no choice but being shunted resentfully like cattle onto Telstra's cramped and dilapidated 747 (which has a track record of crashing).

What do you think of Optus' plans to go bush -- a welcome move or will it be too little, too late? Leave your comments below.