EarlyFollowing federation, the colonial networks (staff, switches, wires, handsets, buildingsetc.) were transferred to the Commonwealth and became the responsibility of the firstPostmaster-General (PMG), a federal Minister overseeing the Postmaster-GeneralsDepartment that managed all domestic telephone, telegraph and postal services. With16,000 staff (and assets of over £6 million) it accounted for 80% of the new federalbureaucracy. That figure climbed to over 120,000 staff (around 50% of the federalbureaucracy) by the late sixties.Public phones were available in a handful of post offices and otherwise restricted tomajor businesses, government agencies, institutions and wealthier residences. Eightmillion telegrams were sent that year over 43,000 miles of line.There were around 33,000 phones across Australia, with 7,502 telephone subscribers ininner Sydney and 4,800 in the Melbourne central business district. A trunk line betweenMelbourne (headquarters of the PMG Department) and Sydney was established in1907, with extension to Adelaide in 1914, Brisbane in 1923, Perth in 1930 and Hobart in1935.An old bakelite ash tray showing an example of a single digit phone number used in the early daysof telecommunication.Overseas cable links to Australia remained in private hands, reflecting the realities ofimperial politics, demands on the new governments resources, and perceptions of itsresponsibilities. On 12 July 1906 the first Australian wireless overseas messages weresent between Point Lonsdale, Victoria and Devonport, Tasmania. Australia and NewZealand ratified the 1906 Berlin Radio-telegraph Convention in 1907. The PMGdepartment became responsible for some international shortwave services - particularlyfrom the 1920s - and for a new Coastal Radio Service in 1911, with the first of a networkof stations operational in February 1912.During the 1930s the PMG became responsible for the Australian BroadcastingCommission(ABC).Background to the service:
Australias first telephone service (connecting the Melbourne and South Melbourneoffices of Robinson Brothers) was launched in 1879. The private Melbourne Telephone Exchange Company opened Australias first telephone exchange in August 1880. Around 7,757 calls were handled in 1884. The Australian networks were government assets operating under colonial legislation modelled on that of Britain. The UK Telegraph Act 1868 for example empowered the Postmaster General to "acquire, maintain and work electric telegraphs" and foreshadowed the 1870 nationalisation of competing British telegraph companies. The nature of the networks meant that regulation in Australia was undemanding: network personnel were government employees or agents, legislation was enhanced on an incremental basis and restrictions could be achieved through infrastructure. All the colonies ran their telegraph networks at a deficit through investment in infrastructure and subsidisation of regional access, generally with bipartisan support. Government-operated post office and telegraph networks - the largest parts of the bureaucracy - were combined into a single department in each colony on the model of the UK Post Office: South Australia in 1869, Victoria in 1870, Queensland in 1880 and New South Wales in 1893.In Australia the 1982 Davidson Enquiry regarding private sector involvement in deliveryof existing/proposed telecommunications services recommended ending TelecomAustralias monopoly. In the preceding year Aussat Pty Ltd, another governmentagency, had been established to operate domestic satellite telecommunication andbroadcasting services.In practice Aussats charter restricted it from acting as a competitor to Telecom,including a prohibition on interconnecting public switched traffic with Telecoms network.Aussats viability was undermined through restrictions on raising capital, of criticalimportance given tepid government support and increasing costs. It wasnt until 1985that Australias first geostationary communications satellite was operational; by late1990 it had debts of about $400 million.The Australian Telecommunications Commission was restructured as the AustralianTelecommunications Corporation, trading as Telecom Australia, in 1989. That year saw
the last domestic telegram handled by Telecom, with responsibility for telegramoperations handed over to Australia Post.Proposals for a merger of Aussat and OTC (thereby permitting national delivery oftelecommunication services in competition with Telecom) were rejected in favor ofdisposal of the satellite operator to a non-government entity that would be allowed tocompete with Telecom.Immediately following the decision that Optus Communications - a private sector entityowned by a consortium that included BellSouth- would be given Australias secondgeneral carrier licence purchased the Satellite assets with many of the Non SatelliteAssets remaining with the Government as part of Telstra.Cable & Wireless, privatised after several decades of UK government ownership, took acontrolling stake in Optus in 1998 (under the banner Cable & Wireless Optus) beforecontrol passed to SingTel in 2001.Optus was initially allowed to enter the Australian telecommunications marketplace fornational long distance and international telephone calls, with other players preventedfrom entering the general telephone market until 1997 and pro-competitionmechanisms under the Trade Practices Act 1974- such as guaranteed access toTelecoms existing infrastructure on reasonable terms - meant to ensure its viability.Telstra also faced competition in market niches such as long distance corporate voiceand data services, with AAPT (a spinoff of the local AAP financial data/news service)active from 1991. MCI Communications, later absorbed by WorldCom, was an earlymajor shareholder of AAPT but departed in 1994. New Zealands Todd Corporation tooka 24.5% stake in AAPT in 1992. In 1995 AAPT launched a mobile phone service, usingVodafone as its network supplier, acquired a 50% of Australian ISP connect.com.au PtyLtd and bought NewsNet ITN. In the same year SingTel acquired a 24.5% shareholdingin AAPT.In 1996 AAPT bought 40% of Cellular One Communications, followed by QNETCommunications. In that year it gained a carrier licence, offering long distance servicesto the residential market and building communications networks for the South Australianand Victorian governments. It subsequently moved to 100% of CorpTELCommunications, its AAPT Sat-Tel satellite joint venture, connect.com.au and CellularOne. US operator Primus acquired Axicorp (rebadged as Primus Telecom) in 1997,gaining a carriers license and expanding into internet services.
AOTC was rebadged as Telstra Corporation in 1993, trading internationallyas Telstra from that year and domestically as Telstra from 1995. International expansionwas wound back in 1997-98. In 1996 Telstra recorded the largest profit in Australiancorporate history, some $3.8 billion and was partly privatised in November 1997 throughsale by the Commonwealth of around 33.3% of its shareholding.Australias telecommunications market was formally opened to full competition in July1997, with removal of restrictions on the number of licensed operators and anti-competition mechanisms (replaced by general competition law under the oversight ofthe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). The new regime featured asingle national phone numbering scheme and any-to-any connectivity requirements,with the expectation that mobile phones, fixed-line phones and other devices would beable to communicate with each other irrespective of whether the service was providedby Telstra or one of its competitors.A further 16.6% was sold by the Commonwealth in September 1999; but the sale of thegovernments remaining 50.1% stake required legislation. In November 2006, thegovernment sold an additional 33% stake, with the remaining 17% being placed in aFuture Fund, of which the Commonwealth is the primary shareholder.At the end of 1998 there were over 20 licensed telecommunications carriers controllingfacilities in Australia, with several hundred other entities using those facilities to provideservices to consumers. That number had climbed to 99 by May 2002 (with 11 licencessurrendered); the Australian Communications Authority estimated that the benefits toconsumers of telecommunications services from competition in 2000/1 were between$5.5 billion and $12 billion.Some of Telstras overseas ventures had proved unsuccessful, with withdrawal fromsome South East Asian markets and major writedowns of joint venture investmentssuch as the $2.7bn Reach undersea cable with Hong Kong-based PCCW.Satellites are used to provide telecommunications services in very remote areas. Theseare primarily the Optus satellites C1 D1 and D2.There are also a number of satellite earth stations, which provide access points into theAustralian networks: Intelsat has 10 earth stations, 4 on the Indian Ocean and 6 on the Pacific Ocean. Inmarsat has 2 earth stations, which serve the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions. SingTel Optus Earth Stations has several earth stations located in the major cities.
Australia is linked to the world by several fibre-optic cables: Southern Cross Cables to New Zealand, Hawaii and the US mainland with a capacity of 620Gbit/s, with planned upgrade in Q2 2012. Southern Cross Cables to Fiji, Hawaii and the US mainland with a capacity of 620Gbit/s, with planned upgrade in the Q2 2012. Australia-Japan Cable to Guam and Japan. Primarily used as an alternative path to the United States with a capacity of 320Gbit/s. Sea-Me-We3 to Indonesia and onto Asia, Middle East, the United States and other destinations with a capacity of 40Gbit/s. APNG2 (previously part of Pac Rim West) to Papua New Guinea with a capacity of 2x565Mbit/s. Jasaraus (linking to APCN Asia Pacific) to Indonesia with a capacity of 5Gbit/s. Gondwana-1 to New Caledonia. TASMAN-2 to New Zealand. PPC-1 (a joint venture of PIPE Networks and Videsh Sanchar Nigam) to Guam with lit capacity of 80Gbit/s, and potential capacity of 2.56Tbit/s. Telstra Endeavour to Hawaii with a capacity of 320Gbit/s.Next G was built to replace Telstras CDMA network which operated from 1999 until 28April 2008. Next G uses the 850 MHz band, since it requires fewer base stations toprovide coverage, providing a lower capital cost. This network was implemented undercontract by Ericsson as part of a project internally dubbed "Jersey" and launched on 6October 2006. HSPA technology was included in the network to provide Australiasfirst wide area wireless broadband network. Telstras next project is 4G LTE See 4GAustralia