Thursday, December 18, 2008

Telstra hits back

The big news of this week has been Telstra's exclusion from the NBN process. For students of "public affairs" (or corporate spin) this has led today to two stories that make interesting reading.

First some context. Telstra decided not to submit a full bid for the NBN but instead made a "proposal". Their reason for not bidding were based on the Government's refusal to rule out structural separation and supposedly the risk that the information in the bid could have facilitated the Government in instituting that separation.

Interestingly the proposal made great play about the national security qualifications of their equipment supplier, saying;

As part of the merger between Alcatel and Lucent Technologies, Alcatel-Lucent entered into a National Security Agreement with the United States Government to protect the security of many of its products and services. This unique arrangement provides Alcatel-Lucent's customers with confidence in its equipment for securing information and protecting networks and users, including law enforcement and national security purposes.

When Telstra was excluded from the NBN the CEO conducted a conference call with analysts. Twice in that conference call he referred to Telstra's ability to deliver broadband using wireless. The Minister in his press conference later in the day was asked about this claim and indicated he didn't take it seriously as the Telstra 3G network can't sustain the speeds or volume.

So there you have it, Telstra's attempt to differentiate itself on security concerns and Telstra's need to build credibility in its wireless capability.

And so we come to today's media. The front page of The Australian screams Chinese spy fears on broadband frontrunner that claims that the Government has security concerns about Huawei, a possible vendor to Optus. Meanwhile an industry news-sheet called Communications Day (subscription required) led with the headline Telstra launches international search for LTE engineers.

So there you see the wonders of the PR machine. Tweak up the security risk, build the credibility in the threat.

Only the strategy still suffers from some weaknesses. Firstly they need more than engineers to build LTE - they need some spectrum to deploy it in. And as for security someone needs to tell these guys that Australia isn't the USA. In fact the last foreign country to use its miltary to sink something in our vicinity was the - you remember - the FRENCH who sank the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand. Alcatel, of course, is a French company.

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