2009 Australia - The National Broadband Network

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Last updated: 4 Nov 2009 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 115

Analyst: Paul Budde

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the trends and developments taking place in the e-government, e-health and e-education sectors. The report provides analyses of the issues surrounding the growth of such services and includes global and regional information. Comprehensive information on the exciting developments taking place on a regional level is also included.

 

Subjects covered include:

·         The importance of broadband infrastructure;

·         Key issues and strategies needed for countries to develop their digital economies;

·         E-government market overview, analyses and statistics;

·         E-health market overview, analyses and statistics;

·         E-education market overview, analyses and statistics.

 

Researcher:- Paul Budde

Current publication date:- October 2009 (1st Edition)

Next publication date:- October 2010

Executive Summary

The decision to launch a $43 billion national FttH broadband network is a clear indication of the Australian government’s belief that an open broadband infrastructure is essential to the digital economy – that it will fulfil a national purpose as its trans-sector multiplier effect delivers massive social and economic benefits in healthcare, education, energy and the environment, and that it can only be built by a utility (NBN Co).

 

While questions certainly arise around the business model and investment strategies, widespread support exists for the visionary plan. During 2010 the business model needs to be developed, taking into account the socio-economic benefits the infrastructure can deliver to the country.

 

Economic and trans-sector innovations are now key items on the political agenda in other countries around the world but, thanks to government leadership, Australia was the first to get the vision right in terms of a national purpose.

 

After the vision comes the actual design and rollout of the national broadband network. There is no silver bullet for this and each situation generates its own unique alternative, which in turn informs others involved in similar national projects. Social and economic strategies need to be formulated and taken into account in the design and architecture of the infrastructure. Pragmatic solutions should be developed to maximise the use of existing infrastructure and other resources. Un(der)served areas need to receive priority and local communities and councils can play a key role in this. Wireless broadband can play a major role as well.

 

These early projects could also be an ideal testing ground for trans-sector applications. This is where NBN Co comes in. This open wholesale-only company will make the critical architectural and design decisions that will form the basis of this new infrastructure for at least the next 25 years.

 

The network must facilitate the vision laid down by the government, which includes multiple use of the network by other sectors such as healthcare, education, energy, etc. At the same time the company must ensure that it remains an infrastructure company and doesn’t become another telco.

 

The NBN is going to change the nature of competition. The government has published a far-reaching regulatory regime change that leaves no room for doubt that there is no way back to the old days, when the incumbent was able to game the regime by creating endless delays and stifling competition.

 

There will be a transitional period. During this time some of the old activities will continue but they will increasingly shift to the new environment. This will see the players realigning their operations and many will change their business plans well before that time in preparation for the new regime.

 

Negotiations and discussions are already taking place, aimed at shaping this new environment, and the new framework will be aligned with the goals of the NBN.

 

Soon after the government announced the NBN in April 2009 it became evident that Telstra had finally accepted that changes were inevitable and it reacted swiftly. A new management team was appointed, led by the new CEO, David Thodey. They immediately announced their support for the NBN and their willingness to work with the government. The company also put its weight behind the trans-sector concept as that would obviously be the avenue down which it could start generating new revenues. Negotiations were launched with the government exploring how Telstra could best participate. One of the options was for it to take a shareholding in NBN Co.

 

The NBN being a political project there will obviously be political activity involved in the process. Overall a very businesslike approach is being taken but elections, pork-barrelling, new ministers and governments will no doubt exert an influence on the NBN.

 

Some of this will be positive, since a trans-sector approach will require the government to commit other government sectors to participate.

 

While a full national launch will require thorough preparation, two large-scale projects were singled out to form a tangible start to the rollout. Tasmania became the first state to initiate the rollout and backbone projects will be launched before the end of 2009 in regional mainland areas.

 

The financial crisis has focused global attention on new infrastructure developments. Australia had already begun the national broadband network process before the crisis and it now also finds itself at the forefront of investigations into ways in which the new infrastructure can help to stimulate the economy.

 

Open access infrastructure offers the best way forward as it creates a multiplier effect that will assist developments in healthcare, education, energy and the environment, as well as in Internet and digital media. The Australian industry has embarked on a trans-sectoral campaign, convincing other sectors that an open network will give them the tools to save money and improve their service. At the same time this multiplier effect will create new jobs, perhaps as many as 25,000.

 

This cross-sector approach also applies to infrastructure projects – potential synergies exist between the building of roads, sewerage systems, water and gas pipe networks, as well as telecoms and electricity networks.

 

As the financing of the public health systems in Australia becomes increasingly costly the NBN opens up opportunities to lower costs through more effective use of web services for healthcare consumers. With widely available and cost-effective high-speed broadband infrastructure e-health may become an area where important killer applications emerge – applications that utilise truly high-speed broadband networks, enabling customers to benefit from advances in medical technology and medical services.

 

Early diagnosis and after-treatment patient monitoring are two areas where significant synergies may be found, using applications accessed by users in their homes. While broader economic conditions in Australia may be subdued until 2011 spending on e-health solutions is likely to be boosted as part of the larger economic stimulus packages the government is currently enacting.

 

The use of IT and telecommunications technology within educational environments is set to increase dramatically between 2010 and 2015 as the high-speed fibre-based broadband becomes widely available. Simultaneously the capability of Internet services for educational purposes is set to increase enormously over the next decade. Given its large landmass and relatively small population Australia is an ideal market for remote education services. Australia is already home to many successful e-education service providers, as well as being a fairly important market for e-education services.

 

The government provides citizens with relatively e-government services and, as with education, the establishment of a fibre-based broadband network may see the government improve and broaden the range of web services for which it is responsible. As such Australia is a fascinating and relatively advanced market for both e-education and e-government services.

 

Key highlights:

·         The NBN is going to change the nature of competition;

·         Telstra’s acceptance of the NBN and its reaction;

·         Smart Grids, the electricity industry and NBN integration;

·         Trans-sector opportunities to revolutionise e-education;

·         ICT spending in healthcare must increase to keep pace as the population ages.

 

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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