Big contracts fly as Telstra outsources network

Contracts worth more than $A600 million for 16 parcels of work on Telstra's Customer Access Network were shared between Visionstream Australia and Skilled Engineering this week. Visionstream, which is a Leighton Contractors' subsidiary, picked up deals worth $A338 million, while Skilled Engineering's share of the pie was valued at $A280 million. The three-year deals, which are believed to be the largest contracts ever let by Telstra, cover the design, maintenance and upgrading of the network and are part of the carrier's plan to consolidate contracted access network activity.

A spokesman said the contracts will commence on October 1 and will involve a range of services across Australia. Skilled Engineering picked up work in Perth/southern WA, Adelaide/southern SA, and Brisbane/Sunshine Coast. Visionstream's regions included large areas of Sydney and Melbourne.

Australian broadband product supplier Quadtel also claimed a slice of Telstra's action this week when it was selected as preferred supplier of asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) modems. The deal is expected to be worth $A4 million in the first year, growing to more than $A10 million a year after mid-2001. Quadtel will supply the Alcatel Speedtouch modem to both residential and business customers.

Catuity builds on Visa's smarts

Listed Australian software developer Catuity has been selected as the solution provider of the loyalty software in Visa's new smart card platform, which is a pre-packaged multi-application chip card.

A spokesman said Catuity has played a significant role in the development of the smart Visa Loyalty platform. "Catuity's loyalty offering is powerful in that it brings a combined instore and Internet solution with multiple program options for our members, merchants and card holders," explained Diana Knox, senior vice president of Visa's smart card applications and market development.

Catuity will receive development fees and an annual fee per card holder for the use of its technology.

Waiting for Gerstner? Westpac dithers

Among the vast crowds of overseas visitors that continue to pour into Sydney for the Olympic Games is one man with a mission - IBM's chief Lou Gerstner. Although details of his trip are being kept quiet, it is known he will be holding very high level talks with Telstra.

It is also suspected that Gerstner may drop in at Westpac, which has narrowed its short list of IT outsourcing suppliers to two: CSC with C&W Optus as its preferred telco, and IBM Global Services Australia holding hands with Telstra.

While The Rust Report has been unable to confirm that Gerstner will meet Westpac executives, it is known that the bank has delayed its announcement of the successful bidder by a week until October 13 - Black Friday for someone.

Feds release RFT for Group 11

The Australian Government has released a request for tender for the provision of IT&T services for its Group 11 agencies. The group includes:

The Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business (DEWRSB);The Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs;The National Library of Australia;The Australian Securities and Investments Commission; andThe Department of the Treasury.

The contract will cover about 1100 mainframe MIPS, some 750 "midrange computers", and about 8000 desktop machines. LAN services, data telecommunications and a range of cross platform services are involved in all states and territories. Tenderers also have the opportunity to bid for the distributed client services of DEWRSB, which supports some 2650 touch screens in 1100 sites and 900 Job Network access workstations.

The closing date for tenders in December 8. Details from drives BHP's online system for SMEsMetiom, formerly known as Intelisys Electronic Commerce, has been selected to supply the infrastructure for BHP's global online procurement system for small to medium enterprises. As part of the deal Metiom will buy BHP's L-Trans supply logistics management system, which the two companies will co-market internationally,and BHP will take an equity stake in Metiom.

Metiom has integrated its ConnectTrade with L-Trans to provide BHP with an automated procure-to-pay and track and trace logistics system which will enable it to communicate electronically with suppliers and freight service providers using a Web browser.

A spokesman explained that in addition to automating its own purchasing, BHP has taken the rights to a number of Metiom's e-marketplace portals in order to generate connectivity among SMEs. "Metiom-powered trading communities reach over six million businesses and providing them with sophisticated logistics management and functionality is critical," a spokesman said.

Earlier this year BHP became a founding member of the corProcure online marketplace formed by 14 of Australia's largest companies, and the Mining and Metals Marketplace.

Olympics take Network Appliance higher

The Olympics have provided a special boost to the fortunes of the rapidly growing Australian subsidiary of Network Appliance. The company's products have been selected to speed access to the Web site, which is a joint venture between i7, the online and broadband business of Australia's Seven Network, and the Australian Olympic Committee. Seven Network has the broadcast and subscription TV rights to the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.i7 has installed six Network Appliance NetCache C720 systems specifically for the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games that follow. Two of the systems will be retained at the completion of the games.

Michael Bosch, managing director of Network Appliance's Australian operation, said the NetCache appliances will allow the site to avoid the kinds of bottlenecks that slow Web page delivery when servers and networks become heavily loaded. "They actually improve audio and video quality through the reliable delivery of high bandwidth streams," he claimed.

SITA drives Air NZ cargo ops

Air New Zealand and Ansett Australia have selected SITA to supply a system to control their international cargo business requirements. SITA will supply its SuperCargo system and has appointed a customer support manager in Auckland to provide the airlines with functional support, including training, product rollout support, and guidance on enhancements.

Charles Chambers, cargo operational systems (COPS) project manager for Ansett Australia, said the appointment of the support manager was a positive signal of SITA's commitment to work in a partnership with the airlines.

Microsoft firms ties with Defence

While Microsoft's chairman Bill Gates was in Australia this week he took time out from preaching to the converted at gatherings of capitalists and economists to sign an agreement firming relationships between his company and the Department of Defence. Senator Eric Abetz, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, said the agreement will provide the department with access to "leading edge Microsoft technologies consistent with those adopted by all of Australia's major military allies".

"This relationship includes commercial and collaborative planning, research and development activities and will enhance Defence's ongoing quest towards maintaining a distinctive knowledge edge," he claimed. Abetz also said the closer ties to Microsoft would allow the department to progress towards "more sophisticated business, knowledge management and technical uses".

. . . Supreme Court leaves case in the airWhile Bill Gates may have been keeping Senator Abetz happy in Australia, the Supreme Court in the US kept Microsoft in suspense when it did not announce last week whether it would hear Microsoft's appeal of the Department of Justice's antitrust case. Observers had expected the case to appear on an order list issued last Friday but were disappointed.

The Supreme Court may yet decide not to hear the case but instead pass it on the US Court of Appeals, or it may take the case and place it on another order list later this month, the US observers explained.

Telecoms industry reaches new highs

There can be no doubting the growth of the Australia's telecommunications industry following the awarding of the country's 50th telecommunications carrier licence last week to Nextgen Networks.

"At the time open competition was introduced through the Telecommunications Act 1997 there were only three carriers licensed to operate in the market," noted Tony Shaw, chairman of the Australian Communications Authority. "It is pleasing to see so many companies entering the telecommunications market as both service providers and infrastructure owners. The benefits will flow through to all sections of the Australian community over coming years.

"The newly licensed carriers are making use of all types of delivery platforms - including cable, terrestrial radio communications and satellite - to get their services to market or to provide capacity for sale to other service providers," he added.

Govt to act on skills shortage

After working on solutions to the IT skills crisis with the Australian Information Industry Association and other government ministers, Senator Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, is preparing for action. Alston said he will be releasing, with help from Phillip Ruddock, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, a set of information products produced in conjunction with the National Office of the Information Economy.

It appears the government will expedite some immigration of skilled personnel, although it has been made aware by the AIIA that there is a need to improve Australia's education and training systems.

"When looking to meet skills needs both in the short and longer term I am encouraged by the number of IT&T companies that are now recruiting new graduates and integrating them into the workforce through graduate development programs and work transition programs," Alston said.

"Make no mistake, the Federal Government is very enthusiastic about Australia's IT future and is determined to remove any road blocks as quickly as possible."

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