Optus looks back at 20 years in Australia

Telco also hires former Telstra executive

Optus has celebrated its 20th anniversary after beginning commercial operations on 31 January 1992.

Today, the telecommunications company has over nine million mobile customers, one million fixed-line/broadband customers and also looks after thousands of Australian businesses.

Optus divisional managing director, Vicki Brady, said in a statement that the name was derived from the phrase “opt for us” that demonstrated for the first time in Australia, customers had a choice in telecommunications.

“The Australian mobile market has grown dramatically over the last 20 years,” Brady said. “While mobile phones were once a luxury item, today there are almost 25 million mobile handsets in operation, more than one for every Australian.”

The company did not open its first store until 15 June 1992, on the corner of Pitt Street and Spring Street in Sydney’s central business district. The cheapest mobile phone on sale at the time was a Motorola handset, which retailed for $750, had a $65 connection fee and a monthly line rental fee of $30.

During the 1990s, Optus’ primary business was in the long distance fixed telephone market. Customers who wanted to make a call from their home phone had to dial 1 to use the Optus network.

Last year, Optus chief executive, Paul O’Sullivan, reminisced about the early days of the company after it was granted a carrier licence on 19 November 1991.

In 1994, Optus embarked on what O’Sullivan admitted was a “misadventure” called Optus Vision where it rolled out cable across Australia in a bid to compete with rival, Telstra. “That was a big lesson for us as we wrote off $500 million in losses on that network,” he said at that time. “We realised that you cannot compete in fixed-line telecommunications on an un-level playing field.”

In other news, Optus has appointed former Telstra network products and services executive director, John Paitaridis, as its new managing director of Optus Business. He will be responsible for the division’s sales, marketing, products and operations including Optus’ wholly-owned subsidiary Alphawest and its Uecomm business.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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