Telstra is set to double the speed of its BigPond Cable Broadband
service as it prepares for its first foray into the nascent movie
download market. A week away from the launch of its movies service,
BigPond Group Managing Director Justin Milne said that the company had
completed an upgrade of its HFC cable infrastructure that would
increase download speeds to up to 17 Mbps. While the BigPond Movies
offering will be available for DSL as well as cable subscribers, Milne
said the offering would be a strong complement to the enhanced cable
system.

Telstra currently has around 250,000 subscribers for BigPond Cable Broadband, a fraction of
the 2.6 million households passed by the network, but Milne says the high-speed service
has found a loyal following that he expected to take up increased download speeds on
offer.

“BigPond’s existing Cable Standard Broadband service has been very popular because
of the up-to-8 Mbps download speeds it provides our customers. We have been
upgrading the cable network’s infrastructure, and we have been trialling software
changes to evaluate the network’s ability provide even higher speeds,” he said.
“During the trial, Cable customers experienced download speeds of up to 17 Mbps.
Actual speeds for customers varies due to many factors, including customer location,
internet traffic and modem and computer configuration.”

From March, subscribers to BigPond’s standard cable packages will be
able to access the higher speed service for an additional $10 per
month. Those already on its top-of-the-line 20GB plan, who participated
in the trial, will continue to receive the higher download speeds, at
no increase in their monthly access fee.

While executives shied away from bold promises on video-on-demand and IPTV late last year,
Telstra could still be the first to launch a full movie download service when it makes its debut next
Wednesday. BigPond currently operates as a mail order DVD hire service and it is expected this
user base will bear the brunt of initial marketing efforts. The firm has access to a database of
around 7,000 films distributed in Australia by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Other mainstream
movie download services in the pipeline include ReelTime Infotainment targeting a launch before
mid-year, and Quickflix.

According to Milne, “combined with BigPond Movies Downloads, Cable Extreme will provide
a quality Movies on Demand service.” He added, “BigPond Cable Extreme will provide customers
with the ability to download large files quickly and conveniently. With BigPond Movies
Downloads, the Cable Extreme speeds means that the program can be viewed almost immediately.”
Telstra COO Greg Winn indicated in a November 17 slide presentation to analysts that Telstra
was even considering closing its cable modem service and moving customers across to ADSL2+
when it built its fibre-to-the-node network. But a BigPond spokesman confirmed yesterday that the
decision to close cable modem service was “indicative” and based on the status of FTTN. BigPond
also confirmed that the new upgrade was based on the older DOCSIS 1.0 standard.