Singtel Optus Pty Limited d/b/a Optus is the second largest telecommunications company in Australia and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singaporean company Singtel. The company primarily trades under the Optus brand, while maintaining several wholly owned subsidiary brands, such as Virgin Mobile Australia in the mobile telephony market, Uecomm in the network services market and Alphawest in the ICT services sector.
|Subsidiary of Singtel|
|Founded||1981 (as AUSSAT)|
|Headquarters||Macquarie Park, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia|
Number of employees
|~8,000 (June 2018)|
To provide services, Optus mostly owns and operates its own network infrastructure, and also uses the wholesale services of the National Broadband Network and Telstra. It provides services both directly to end users and also acts as a wholesaler to other service providers such as Exetel and Amaysim. Through its Optus 'Yes' brand, it provides broadband, and wireless internet services. Other wholesale services include Satellite and 4G Mobile.
The company was originally known as Aussat Pty Limited prior to privatisation, when it became Optus Communications Pty Limited. It was later renamed to Cable & Wireless Optus Pty Limited before changing again to its present name.
Key Optus products and services include:
- Fixed telephony
- Mobile telephony
- GSM/GPRS utilising 900 MHz/1800 MHz covering 98.5% of the population
- 3G/HSPA provided by 2100 MHz for large regional centres and metropolitan and 900 MHz for regional as well as metropolitan coverage. The dual frequencies covers 98.5% (98.8% with the use of an external antenna) of the population
- 4G/LTE provided by 700 / 1800 / 2100 / 2300 / 2600 MHz Covering 95.9% of the Australian population (As of July 2017).
- Satellite Telephony covering all of Australia.
- Internet access
- Cable television
- Leased lines
- Data transmission
A number of notable wholly owned subsidiaries operate as part of the Singtel Optus group. These are:
- Information Technology & Network Services
- Mobile Telephony
Until 20 January 2013, Optus sold mobile services under the brand name Boost Mobile.
Optus also has a 50% stake in the now defunct OPEL Networks.
Other wholly owned subsidiaries of note no longer have a significant active role as individual entities. These are as follows:
Reef Networks was formed in 1999 to provide an optical fibre link between Brisbane and Cairns in Queensland. Optus gained exclusive access to this link in 2001, ahead of acquiring the organisation in 2005.
XYZed was established by Optus in 2000 to provide wholesale business-grade DSL services under an individual brand, but today provides a collection of products only as part of the Optus Wholesale & Satellite division. XYZed established a network of DSLAMs inside Telstra telephone exchanges, utilising Unconditioned Local Loop services to reach end users.
AUSSAT and deregulation
Optus can trace its beginnings back to the formation of the Government-owned AUSSAT Pty Limited in 1981. In 1982, Aussat selected the Hughes 376 for their initial satellites, with the first, AUSSAT A1, launched in August 1985. AUSSAT satellites were used for both military and civilian satellite communications, and delivering television services to remote outback communities.
With Aussat operating at a loss and with moves to deregulate telecommunications in Australia, the government decided to sell Aussat, coupled with a telecommunications licence. The licence was sold to Optus Communications — a consortium including:
- logistics firm Mayne Nickless (24.99%);
- UK telecommunications company Cable & Wireless (24.50%);
- US telecommunications company BellSouth (24.50%);
- AIDC Limited (10.00%);
- insurance and investment company AMP (10.00%); and
- insurance and investment company National Mutual (6.02%).
The new telecommunications company was designed to provide competition to then government owned telecommunications company Telecom Australia, now known as [Telstra].
After privatisation, AUSSAT became Optus and its first offering to the general public was to offer long distance calls at cheaper rates than that of its competitor Telstra. The long distance calling rates on offer were initially available by consumers dialing 1 before the area code and phone number. Following this, a ballot process was conducted by then regulator AUSTEL, with customers choosing their default long distance carrier. Customers who made no choice or refused to respond to the mailout campaign automatically remained as a Telstra long distance customer. Customers who remained with Telstra could dial the override code of 1456 before the area code and phone number to manually select Optus as the carrier for that single call. Since 1 July 1998, consumers have the choice of preselecting their preferred long distance carrier or dialling the override code before dialling a telephone number.
The group began by building an interstate fibre optic cable and a series of exchanges between Optus' interstate network and Telstra's local network. It also laid fibre optics into major office buildings and industrial areas, and focused on high bandwidth local, (interstate) long distance, and interstate calls for business. In its early years, Optus was only able to offer local and long distance calls to residential customers through Telstra's local phone network. Telstra would carry residential to residential calls to Optus' exchanges, and then the calls would be switched to Optus' long distance fibre optic network.
Optus was the main sponsor of the 1997 ARL season.
The hybrid fibre-coax rollout
These practices meant that Optus was the largest customer of Telstra. To become competitive Optus would need to lay its own local phone network. To provide a killer application for this, the Australian Federal government sold subscription television licences. Optus, as well as the Seven Network, businessman Kerry Stokes and American cable company Cablevision, formed the Optus Vision consortium. News Corporation and Telstra created the rival Foxtel consortium.
Telstra's local phone network did not have the capability to deliver Foxtel pay television to consumers in the early 1990s, so Telstra identified a need to create a broadband network to support this new product.
As Telstra and Optus could not agree on terms for a joint broadband cable roll out, they laid two competing cable networks, in addition to Telstra's existing copper network, at a combined cost estimated of over A$6bn.
Whilst Telstra focused on creating a broadband network specifically for broadcast, Optus designed their cable network to provide telephony services in addition to broadcast television.
Cable and Wireless with 24.5% stakeholder bought out Bell South's equal 24.5% shareholding in July 1997. The company returned to profitability in 1998 and changed its name to Cable and Wireless Optus Pty Limited. Government relaxation of foreign ownership restrictions paved the way for the company to be floated - with Cable and Wireless increasing its holding to 52.5%) - and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on 17 November 1998.
During 2001, Singtel launched a takeover bid for Cable and Wireless Optus which was ultimately successful and the company became known as Singtel Optus Pty Limited.
In the 2003 & 2004 Financial Year, Optus reported a profit of A$440 million. This was an improvement of A$412 million from the previous year.
In August 2004 Optus completed an A$227 million takeover of UEComm Ltd.
In July 2005 Optus announced it would acquire Alphawest Ltd. for A$25.9 million. The buyout was completed in November 2005 and Alphawest is now an operating division of Optus Business.
On 12 January 2006 Optus acquired the remaining 74.15% of Virgin Mobile Australia for U$22.6 m, giving it 100% ownership.
Optus Communications offered its first business-focused internet products in 1998 under the OptusNet product family, offering in-house developed dial-up and high-speed services. Optus purchased one of Australia's pioneer ISPs, Microplex, in 1998 to provide consumer dial-up internet services. Separate to this, under the Optus Vision brand, a cable broadband arm began as a joint venture with U.S. cable and content provider Excite@Home and was known as Optus@Home from its introduction in 1999 until it was renamed in 2002. ADSL services were offered from February 2004. ADSL2+ services were provided from December 2005.
In June 2007, joint venture subsidiary OPEL Networks was awarded government funding towards the cost of building a regional broadband network. Optus was to be contracted to build the network on behalf of OPEL.
In April 2008, after a change of the Federal Government from the Liberal Party of Australia coalition to the Australian Labor Party, the new government terminated the funding agreement and the project was halted, with its functions to be replaced by the National Broadband Network.
- ExtraTerrestrial Fibre Optic Network
- SDH Digital Microwave
- Regional exchanges in Sydney (Rosebery), Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
- Telehousing Data Centres in Melbourne and Sydney
Customer access network
- Hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, providing consumer fixed telephony, cable internet and cable television services.
- CBD optical fibre rings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Wollongong, providing direct access for corporate and government services.
- DSLAMs in certain Telstra local telephone exchanges in all states. Originally only providing business-grade DSL services, newer installations also provide consumer DSL and POTS telephony.
OptusNet is one of only five ISPs in Australia to provide Cable internet (the other four are BigPond, Neighbourhood Cable, TransACT and e-wire). In August 2010, OptusNet released an upgrade of its HFC network to the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which enabled customers to access a maximum theoretical downstream bandwidth of 100 Megabits. OptusNet is also one of the few ISPs in Australia to currently provide ADSL2+ via its own DSLAMs, which it also resells to other ISPs.
Mobile network equipment is from Nortel, Nokia and Huawei and antennas are sourced from Andrews, RFS, Argus and Kathrein.
The Optus network operates on the following bandwidth frequencies across Australia:
- 3G UMTS 900/2100 MHz
- 4G LTE 700 / 1800 / 2100 / 2300 / 2600 MHz network which has been in progressive rollout since 2012. VoLTE is currently being rolled out across Australia. For now, VoLTE is only available in CBD and metro areas in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra on selected devices purchased on postpaid contracts. Until VoLTE has been fully rolled out, voice calling is still reliant on the 3G network (and the 2G network until it is terminated).
The 2G GSM 900/1800 MHz network was terminated on 3 April 2017 in Western Australia and Northern Territory. 2G GSM will be completely terminated on 1 August 2017 when 2G is disconnected in Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia. A device that is capable of running 3G at 900 MHz will be required once 2G is completely disconnected to remain connected across Australia.
Partly owned infrastructure
Part-owned network infrastructure includes:
- 3G mobile network, a joint venture with Vodafone Australia
- Southern Cross Cable, a fully diverse submarine optical fibre link across the Pacific Ocean between Sydney, New South Wales and California in the United States. The Singtel group owns a 40% interest in Southern Cross Cables Limited. This interest was originally owned by Singtel Optus Pty Limited, before ownership was transferred to parent company Singtel during the March 2006 - June 2006 quarter.
Optus's Customer Solutions and Services (CS&S) organisation is responsible for providing support to Optus Business customers. CS&S works with Optus' subsidiary Alphawest to support information technology services across Optus' large business, corporate and government client base.
Since 2005, Optus has outsourced some customer service functions to Concentrix, with the outsourcer providing 800 staff operating offshore in India, supplementing Optus' 3,000-plus onshore call centre staff. Some functions have also been supplemented in The Philippines. Optus also uses 7 Inc. for telephone & chat based offshore support.
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