Australian phone company keys into Pay-TV, Net access

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Optus Communications, Australia's second largest telephony company, will challenge Telstra's dominance early next year by upgrading its analog satellite systems to digital technology, bringing pay-TV and high-speed Internet access to millions of non-metropolitan customers.

Optus expects to have upgraded its whole satellite infrastructure by July, 1997, when Australia's $16 billion telecommunications market will be opened to all comers. Optus is aiming at the corporate and government markets by also offering electronic transaction facilities and videoconferencing as part of a wide range of digital services.

The cost, says Ziggy Switkowski, Optus' chief executive, will be "tens of millions" and will be completed before the company's planned public stock exchange listing late next year.

Also under consideration is a new satellite upgrade to complement Optus' two existing B-series satellites, which would cost "hundreds of millions" but would allow Optus to be competitive in rural and remote markets where Telstra dominates.

Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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