Last updated: 29 Apr 2009 Update History
Report Status: Archived
Report Pages: 7
Analyst: Paul Budde
Following the announcement of the NBN, BuddeComm asked national and international experts to comment particularly in relation to FttH applications and regulatory issues in relation to the future operation of the FttH network. This report lists their ideas, suggestions and comments. We have not edited them but have grouped comments.
IT Brookings (USA) found that for every one percentage point increase achieved in broadband penetration, employment rises from 0.2 to 0.3 percent, or about …and… it is most significant in explaining employment growth in education, health care, and financial services.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a vision of a ubiquitous, user-centric broadband system, one that enables innovation from all sectors. Our vision of a ubiquitous, user-centric broadband system is one that enables innovation from all sectors.
Public-good ‘grand challenge’ applications and the minimum network characteristics (speeds, latency, symmetry) that are required to serve them.
We believe this is an essential component in evaluating the minimum acceptable level of broadband services.
One of the pitfalls is proceeding in too much or a rush. The challenge is how to (a) minimise the costs by smart approaches and (b) spread those costs over the broadest base of economic activity possible. It's a great vision that deserves to succeed.
Most people most of the time live in ‘meatspace’. Having a fibre optic link to my house doesn’t help me mow the lawn, or clean out the garage, or do the laundry. It doesn’t help me help my kids with their homework when what is needed is editing a draft of a paper or reviewing (drilling) on Spanish pronunciation, when what they need (as one of my kids does) is help with the discipline of doing it, not the pronunciation per se.
It does help with our work. But we have a bit-intensive job, as, we would submit, do most of us on the list.
BuddeComm think it is important not to ‘oversell’ the immediate, pragmatic, measureable benefit of universal broadband deployment. It is certainly true that good things can happen. But an appropriate humility about our own (lack of) ability to predict the chaotic, unplanned evolution of the economy and cultural and social life counsels against making specific predictions about what can or will happen.
High bandwidth is the effect of low latency for big payloads, not the cause. Low latency equals to fast response times, which is vital for humans in meatspace who have other things on their mind and a limited amount of time.
Low latency with big payloads allows you to hire a Spanish speaker/teacher living in Mexico to exercise/drill your kid daily on their Spanish with live video/voice, for a minimal cost. Or change the teacher to someone else living elsewhere if the “rapport” between your kids and the teacher does not work out.
This example is frequently offered and very cool, but how central is it life in meatspace? If the overwhelming majority of things people need to do can be supported by a technology that cost one-quarter (and therefore will be deployed much faster) and a technology that will remain useful for basic connectivity for decades if not longer, then prudence suggests we do that technology first with the limited resources we have available.
To pull this off, the government has to hire thousands of skilled people, undertake tens of thousands of mile of construction, verify and interconnect tens of thousands of miles of fibre into hundreds of millions of dollars of procured equipment, establish a large scale provisioning, management and billing infrastructures and then deploy personnel to connect subscribers while establishing call centres to answer technical and billing questions from people paying for service. It is questionable that this can be done at the velocity claimed (and required) by the politicians.
Very smart people, motivated by lots of money (definitely not wearing brown cardigans) have failed to achieve the goals the Australian Government is setting its self up for. Even Verizon, one of the world best run and financially secure operators has deployed Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) much more slowly than their original plan.
The most critical action the Australia Government can take at this time is to establish regulation and pricing for the services its planning to provides so that the existing operators will be able to continue to invest in infrastructure and not exit. Unless regulation and pricing is established, including a mechanism to establish the NBN on equal footing to Telstra, the risk to the Australian people of continuing on the NBN path is unacceptable.
One of the obvious applications is metering – water, natural gas, electricity.
Key applications here include those for environmental purposes - track air quality, water quality, fire alarms, etc. Not only will it matter to green house gas emissions (the US already has a database capable of tracking emissions with incredible granularity; it was built in anticipation of increasingly intelligent infrastructure), but to all sorts of monitoring and control that will be associated with all sorts of new energy projects either planned or under construction out West (USA), particularly in the intermountain region. But these truths are not limited to U.S. borders either nor are they limited to energy production, environmental preservation, communications, or transportation either.
Networks extend our senses and increase our adaptability. Few, if any investments will have a longer and better return on investment provided there is agreement, intent and ongoing assurance that abundance is valued over scarcity; that open is understood to be more valuable than closed, and that the conceptualization and imagination brought to the effort are as unlimited as the minds that dare to imagine better worlds.
Another is to put a wireless access point every 10th house or so, in order that government workers, etc. have a way to ‘tap in’ to the network. They can use it for inspections, building permits, crime reporting, etc.
Fire fighting agencies could tap into all kinds of web 2.0 type data bases and geo marking tools and weather forecast models to plan and execute real time emergency responses to a fire disaster situation. They check the contents of a warehouse in the path of a fire found a dangerous chemical inside and then checked other database to figure out how to get needed equipment to the scene.
The New York Fire Department some years ago did run what basically was a Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service / Time Division Duplex (UMTS / TDD) radio system carrying IP, but the bit that stuck in my mind was some of the C3 applications running over it. The NYFD, by law, gets a copy of the plans of every building in its area of responsibility; they were digitising them and displaying them as a map overlay on a really big touch-screen. The cool bit, however, was that the current state of the map on the big screen at headquarters (or in the forward-command post) could be synchronised with the view on the mobile terminals, so you could sketch out a plan and have the crew in the field both see it and respond to it.
They will open access to critical, limited resources that allows students anywhere in Australia to use and learn using cutting edge research tools:
A ‘trans-sector’ concept, and one that does benefit mightily from, if not require, high bandwidth is what we call ‘remote diagnostics.’ It’s where the remote location shows something to the central expert and gets advice. Examples range from life-saving to silly, and include:
You get the idea - the remote location submits ‘things’ – whether real-time video, detailed photographs or high-quality sound recordings, elaborate diagrams (like architectural drawings), and can get feedback without travel to and from the remote location.
The key issue for the unserved is basic connectivity.
This is of course 2-way connectivity. The served are not just ‘sending out content’ for charity’s sake -- they are:
It is the two-way nature of basic connectivity that is crucial, NOT just more TV channels.
All of these are ‘trans-sectoral’ in that they are applications not normally associated with telecommunications.
FttH is not about telecommunications, cable, or wireless as a business. It is about basic infrastructure used to connect increasingly ubiquitous and intelligent devices, whether they be institutions, public agencies, people, meters, appliances, buildings, or even bridges, but these applications are only the beginning.
Fibre optic is not the gold standard; it is simply necessary infrastructure. Pretending that it is somehow ‘gold’ is to pretend that there is some premium on it; that it is somehow ‘more special’ and likely more expensive than anything else. It is an old marketing trick, but has nothing to do with the obviousness and plainness of very conventional technology. It is no longer ‘magic’; it just is, so let us also disabuse ourselves of the notion that somehow pulsing light down a fibre is still FM technology where M = magic. This stuff is no more special than asphalt. Its stuff we use.
The magic is what we - all of us - the people - do with it.
BuddeComm was discussing the FttH opportunity with some technical colleagues recently. The summary of this discussion is as follows:
BuddeComm would be happy to prepare a ICT Industry focused discussion paper on the above issues if you think that this would be worth while.
Note that technically, the HFC versus DSL bandwidth limiting issue is actually wrong when all services - Video/Audio (TV/Radio), Voice (Telephone) and Data (Internet) are taken into account. People need to understand this to understand the benefits of a PON based FttH network, which is conceptually just all-optical HFC. These are the issues:
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