Doubts over telco’s broadband delivery

20/08/2008 - 22:00

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

The broadband question is an inevitable subject when a group of online entrepreneurs is brought together, though the issue did not raise temperatures as much as could be expected at the WA Business News forum.

The broadband question is an inevitable subject when a group of online entrepreneurs is brought together, though the issue did not raise temperatures as much as could be expected at the WA Business News forum.

Most thought internet and telephony services were, in general, poor.

Broadband has been a hot political issue, with both the Howard government and its Labor opponents offering policies before the last election to wire up the country.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has promised much on this subject, with the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts changed to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy as one his earliest moves after being elected.

More importantly, the federal government has committed to providing up to $4.7 billion, including regulatory changes, to facilitate the roll-out of a new open-access, high-speed, fibre-based broadband network, providing downlink speeds of at least 12 megabits per second to 98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses.

Such a move is welcomed by many in the IT community, though critics, such as Michael Malone, founder of Perth-based national ISP iiNet Ltd, believe the cost will be many times that, and the money will be wasted.

Mr Malone has previously stated that adequate speeds are already available to most of the public through the existing network.

But those at the forum were disappointed by what Australia offered compared with the rest of the world.

"We are a long way behind," Vibe Capital co-founder Matthew Macfarlane said. "The take up [by consumers] is strong but the quality of service is very poor."

Laurie Smithdale said his Seabreeze service was hosted in the US because it provided significantly cheaper options than in Australia.

Shocked by the first bill she received for a new phone with download capacity, business adviser and former CEO of ineedhits, Jackie Shervington, worries the mobile revolution might bypass us because of the cost of telephony.

Other panellists, though, pointed out that shopping around for phone plans did reveal some that were very cost effective.

In fact, it was suggested Australia's comparatively poor investment in physical broadband infrastructure may mean it could follow some third-world nations and leapfrog the next stage of that development, moving straight into offering high-speed services via mobile telephony.

"We may end up ahead of the curve in three or four years' time because everyone says the landline is so poor, but we have to get the [mobile] prices down," Buzka's Raphe Patmore told the forum.

However, the elephant in the room remains the same to some degree, whether its fibre or mobile - Telstra.

The cynicism about Telstra's role in holding back Australia's IT services was best summarised by Mr Macfarlane's comment about what we see in the news.

"Look at Telstra, the highest profile guy is the guy who fights regulation, it's not the guy who looks after customers; who would he be?"

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options