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Gearing Up For Speedy Gonzalez Broadband

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Gearing Up For Speedy Gonzalez Broadband

1 MAY 2009 - What will New Zealand look like in 2019? Will we all be driving hybrid hovercrafts, zooming across town in personal jet packs and watching three dimensional television programmes? Who can say? One thing we can be sure of is higher speed broadband, thanks to the Government's high-speed fibre plan.

In revealing its plan in late March, the Government announced it will invest up to $1.5 billion on high speed broadband infrastructure. This works out to about $150 million a year. The money will be dispersed through the new Crown-owned investment company "Crown Fibre Investment Co" and a series of public-private sector partnerships, thus reinforcing the National government's plan to invest in new business.

The announcement has prompted much discussion in the media and the public with polarising opinions on the value of the initiative. One of the more dominant opinions coming through is that whatever we think high speed broadband is now may not be the case in 10 years' time.

Certainly, over the past five years we have seen a dramatic uptake in broadband-sucking technology - Facebook, Twitter, broadcast media's "on demand" features and the dominating Mac gadgets, iTunes and iPhone. High speed internet is now part of our culture.

According to Statistics New Zealand's Internet Service Provider survey completed last March, of the 1.5 million internet subscribers in New Zealand, almost 60% subscribe to broadband (891,000 subscribers). This compares with 475,700 broadband subscribers in 2006.

Contributing to this dramatic uptake has been the proliferation of internet service providers offering increasingly better deals and bundles (phone, mobile and internet packages) for the consumer and higher speed packages. There are now around 60 ISPs operating in New Zealand - although Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear continue to dominate. Broadband still costs a lot more here than it does overseas, but we're getting there.

So what will this proposed high speed fibre plan offer us - firstly as businesses, and secondly as consumers?

For businesses, this new announcement provides opportunities for new ventures - whether you're already in the IT business or not. The Telecommunications Users Association head Ernie Newman anticipates telecommunications companies, power lines companies and regional groupings could all be involved in this new initiative. Now is the time to get in and get a slice of the multimillion-dollar pie on offer.

In addition to the new ventures and partnerships on offer, businesses - particularly those in the selected 25 towns and cities - can also expect to reap the rewards of this "ultra-fast" fibre network ahead of others. Hospitals, schools and organisations based in the chosen locations can expect to have better access to faster internet. For the IT and creative sectors, this means we can get cracking on projects that have previously been stilted due to poor bandwidth (maximum internet speed or rate of megabites per second). Bring on 3D and mainstream holographic technologies, we say. (Check out Unlimited Potential's 3D expo that took place on 24 April for details on some of these emerging technologies - http://up.org.nz/up3d-2009/?previousyear=2009)

The same will apply for consumers in the chosen areas. Currently, most New Zealanders on broadband are on packages offering a download speed of around between two megabites per second (Mbps) to 10Mbps. In reality, few New Zealand connections actually run this fast. The proposed new broadband infrastructure will open up the lines to realise faster broadband - in essence, allowing us to access newer, more bandwidth-heavy technologies.

How will the new speedy Gonzalez broadband help those outside the chosen 25 locations? In short, it won't, at least not directly. But, as we have seen with the development of better broadband connections in the main centres, there will be spin-off effects for rural communities. As I write this I am on a wireless connection in the Coromandel - the speed of the connection only hampered by the dearth of memory on my long-suffering laptop. A few years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. In short, new broadband infrastructure in the cities leads to trickle-down effect of faster, more reliable broadband in the provinces.

We're still a long way off from realising the Government's vision but it could well be an exciting journey and one that as Wellington businesses, we should be intrinsically part of.

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