SingTel Unit Gets Funding for Australian Broadband Plan

Singapore Telecommunications said on Monday its Optus unit has secured A$958 million (US$807 million) in funding from the Australian government for its broadband joint-venture.

The joint venture with Futuris Corp. unit Elders will build new networks to extend broadband coverage to rural and regional areas.

The government funding comprises A$600 million from the previously announced Broadband Connect Infrastructure Programme and an additional A$358 million in funding to further extend high-speed affordable broadband services to rural areas, a joint statement from Optus and Elders said.

The government funding is a blow to larger rival Telstra Corp., which also hoped to win some of the infrastructure grants to extend rural broadband coverage.

Under pressure in an election year, the Australian government is expected to set up a review panel soon to examine building a separate, high-speed fibre optic broadband network, which will be put to an open tender.

Australia's existing broadband network is slow compared with other nations, but a stalemate between Telstra and the industry regulator over pricing has delayed plans to build a fibre network.

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