HOME Technology Dec 2011
Burgeoning broadband
Downloads driving demand

“Progress was made this year when Telecom doubled its data caps to 20Gb for many residential customers and Slingshot began offering uncapped plans to 5000 customers on 12 month contracts.”

Ultrafast enhancements to fixed line, mobile and undersea broadband can’t come soon enough to meet the insatiable appetite for on-demand TV, music, maps, games, social networking and doing business online.

While the average New Zealand connection currently staggers along at around 3Mbit/sec, by 2016 the broadband blues will be banished when fibre optic cabling and mega-mobile services will allegedly deliver a minimum of 50Mbit/sec to most homes and business.

According to a recent poll by US-based Zigby International, high speed internet has had the greatest impact of any technology over the past decade, and many people claim they couldn’t live without it.

Facebook and Google were also ‘must have’ technologies with home entertainment the next big thing, pushing us toward even greater dependency on faster broadband.

According to InternetNZ and StatisticsNZ, 1.5 million New Zealanders subscribed to broadband in the year to June 2011, up 14 percent on 2010.

Caps holding us back

Meanwhile InternetNZ is concerned at the impact of data caps on new media internet services, when most of the world has ditched them and Australians typically have terabyte limits after a ‘data cap price war’.

Some progress was made this year when Telecom doubled its data caps to 20Gb for many residential customers and Slingshot began offering uncapped plans to 5000 customers on 12 month contracts.

While the number of 20Gb plus data plans has increased overall, video on demand, replay TV and other rich content services continue to push the boundaries.

The OECD broadband figures for the year to June 2010 rank New Zealand as 17th out of 31 nations, with 24.5 percent of the population on fixed line broadband ahead of Australia at 18th place.

Slow investment in infrastructure has kept both Australia and New Zealand lagging many of the world’s leading nations, although they’re now in catch-up mode rolling out ultra-fast nationwide networks.

Telecom and Vodafone jointly won the $300 million rural broadband contract with a mix of enhanced copper, mobile, fixed wireless and fibre, promising a minimum of 28.8Mbit/sec to outlying areas by 2016. This will quadruple when next generation cellular technology comes into play.

Meanwhile major electricity companies, UltraFast Broadband Ltd, Enable, Telecom’s Chorus and other partners, are now rolling out the Government’s Ultrafast Broadband Network to the rest of the country.

When completed, almost all households will be able to receive a minimum peak speed of 50Mbit/sec – although the majority should get at least 100Mbit/sec.

Crown Fibre Holdings is promising its fibre-to-the-premises network will reach 75 percent of New Zealand and be live by 2020. Work began mid-year and is expected to be completed within six years.

Undersea bottleneck

About 85 percent of New Zealand internet traffic is international which means the final bottlenecks are our undersea cable links.

It’s been alleged the Southern Cross cable monopoly is a factor in internet providers maintaining low broadband data caps. The Telecommunications Users Association is investigating.

Southern Cross, in the process of upgrading our links to Australia and the US from 10Gbit/sec to 40Gbit/sec capacity, says it’s already dropped per gigabyte prices to ISPs. InternetNZ is now asking whether ISPs may be keeping data caps artificially high.

Welcome competition in the undersea cable business is expected from Pacific Fibre’s proposed $505 million international connections, with claims this will reduce costs to all New Zealanders.

After physical transport, a recent Deloitte and BusinessNZ survey of the New Zealand’s business community ranked broadband and telecommunications as the infrastructure that has the greatest potential to contribute to New Zealand’s future economic prosperity.

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