Qld moves closer to next coastal broadband network

Queensland's push to create a second coastal broadband network has cleared an important hurdle and appears back on track for completion next year.

After considerable delays, an agreement guaranteeing a physical corridor for the proposed coastal communications trunk has been signed between Queensland Rail and Reef Networks.

The 30-year licensing agreement allows Reef Networks to run fibre optic cabling along the right-of-way for rail tracks between Brisbane and Cairns.

Reef Networks is a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings, a construction company whose prevous projects have included laying fibre optic cable for the Optus backbone network.

Announcing the successful conclusion of negotiations, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said the second coastal network will create conditions for more competitive telecommunications pricing and higher service levels.

Parallel negotiations are still taking place between Reef Networks and Optus over the right to wholesale the new network's capacity.

Negotiations may have been complicated by disruptions to Reef Network's underlying price model thanks to lower interconnect rates offered by Telstra to individual wholesale customers.

If so, it would be a case of the new network fulfilling government hopes of driving down telecomms pricing levels even before it is built.

Reef Network's access difficulties won't end once it has signed a pact with Queensland Rail. It must still hold talks with local councils to win access rights from rail lines into the business centres of the major coastal communities along the route.

Physical construction of the network is slated for completion by the end of 2000.

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