Telstra (ASX:TLS) has signed a $146 million deal to connect more than 1550 Catholic education sites from around Australia to a high-speed broadband network with speeds of up to 100Mbps.
Telstra CEO, David Thodey, unveiled the deal in Victoria with the chair of Catholic Network Australia (CNA), Francis Moore.
According to a Telstra statement, the network will be predominately fibre optic-based and will link five datacentres around Australia using Telstra Internet Direct.
Telstra will be providing the network services and install the necessary fibre optic backbone extensions. More than 60 per cent of the schools will be connected to the network within the next 12 months and the majority will be connected within two years.
The remainder will be connected by five years time, at which point a new deal will need to be negotiated between the two parties.
The contract comes in spite of Federal Government promises to have a fibre optic-based National Broadband Network (NBN) rolled out to more than 90 per cent of the population.
“We’ve done our due diligence on this and we believe the NBN will take considerably longer than was first anticipated,” CNA board member, Stephen Elder, said. “The price that we’ve negotiated with Telstra is very competitive and we’re happy with the price.”
Elder said the deal was two years in the making, which included negotiations between the Catholic Church’s 28 Australian diocese to form a single unified entity.
“The Church educates around 720,000 students so we had to bring them all together to aggregate demand and then go to suppliers of service to get the best possible price,” he said.
While the initial deal was for the connection of Catholic education facilities, Elder foresees other Church bodies joining the network.
“The Church in Australia is one of the biggest providers after the Commonwealth and state governments in healthcare, aged care, welfare and also normal parish activities.
“Fundamentally what this contract with Telstra is, is a springboard for these other agencies and we will work to assist them to come together with a view to also dealing with Telstra,” he said.
The network will be managed through a range of virtual private networks (VPNs) and gateway exchanges, which would allow Catholic education offices to share and exchange resources.