Virtual Communities to offer broadband

Virtual Communities to offer broadband

Virtual Communities has begun a pilot program in preparation for the rollout of its affinity broadband service at the end of the month.

The company that originally found success in bundling PC and Internet offerings will trial its broadband service with around a dozen customers before launching the product in late November. It will offer its own service, rather than reselling through another provider.

"We will be our own broadband provider - if you don't do it yourself, you don't make any money," said Ravi Bhatia, Virtual Communities' executive chairman. "You do all the work, and someone else gets it all."

In September, Virtual Communities purchased Austar's metropolitan Internet business, AustarMetro, picking up more than 21,000 customers in the process. It also bought Exodus Communications' Melbourne-based Web hosting facility, GlobalCenter, earlier this year.

The company has partnered with local assembler Optima to provide a white-box alternative for its clients. The offering, which bundles Optima's MyPC with Microsoft software, three-and-a half years of Internet access, helpdesk support, delivery, installation and finance, is being marketed through its affinity partners, including St George Bank and REST superannuation.

"It's going very well," Bhatia said. "If you look at the market, more than 50 per cent is white box, so we had to give our customers a bit of a choice. Optima was aggressive enough to pursue us."

Bhatia said the response to the flyers, which are included with customers' bank and superannuation statements, has led to an increase in business of around 20 per cent.

"The response is a lot better than you would get with a direct mailout, because the company is already known to the recipient," he said.

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