01/06/2004 - 22:00

Not all broadband created equal

01/06/2004 - 22:00

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WITH greater demand for broadband and an increasingly technology savvy consumer base, the availability, cost, type and quality of broadband is being brought into question.

Not all  broadband created equal

WITH greater demand for broadband and an increasingly technology savvy consumer base, the availability, cost, type and quality of broadband is being brought into question.

While broadband is now widely available in Western Australia, some argue that current telecommunications infrastructure is not readily accessible to provide the speed and quality of service that residential and corporate customers require.

Others, however, claim that we are setting the bar too high.

Technology and Industry Advisory Council spokesman Rob Meecham said providing access to higher speed broadband at a faster rate than was already available was crucial to both WA business and the community.

“Because of the way the issue is being dealt with commercially there has been an impression created within the public that broadband means speeds of 128 to 256k,” Mr Meecham said.

“Whereas if you look internationally, broadband access means access between 1.7 or 2 megabits.

“I think Canadians have access of 2 megabits being the benchmark, and certainly some of the work that ATUG has done, speeds of up to 50 megabits are going to be required if an economy or a community is going to describe itself as being at the cutting edge.

“Those are the speeds that TIAC needs to aspire to in the WA economy if we are going to remain in our current position as being at the forefront – an economy that is at the high end of world statistics.”

Australian Telecommunications Users Group national director Walter Green said Australia was behind many other comparable countries and had failed to keep pace with international trends.

“The figure that has been assessed as what is being needed for a residential house within the next three years is 50 megabits per second,” Dr Green said.

“So that is assuming that your telephone, your broadband, your video services [are accommodated]. So the concept of having a TV antennae on your building is no longer necessary.

“If you are talking of your small business, maybe 50 megabits per second is enough, but general rule of thumb is 100 megabits per second and upwards.

“Some businesses have up to 1 Gigabits.

“It was three years ago that I was involved in a project where we put in the first 1 Gigabit ethernet service to a company in Perth.

“So we are not looking at the 128k and those kinds of things, which don’t even stack up on those figures.

“Why would one guy want 1 Gigabit?

“The answer is that he had a number of users and the traffic to warrant it.

“So this was a purely commercial decision. It was a very successful e-commerce site in Perth.

“Those are the kinds of demands that we are seeing now and I see them going north in the future.”

Westnet managing director Peter Brown questioned what speeds were realistic for every home and business.

“I wonder if we are setting the targets too high for the bandwidth,” Mr Brown said. “I have one half meg ADSL at home and I can’t use anywhere near the capacity of that.

“I know that I’m not trying to draw TV down it, but I would say that 95 per cent of people wouldn’t want to do that.”

Amcom chief operating officer Clive Stein said the real question concerned current trends.

“Where we’ve come from is a narrow band world. It was dial up to the Internet, it was ISDN, it was 64 megabit per second and multiples thereof,” Mr Stein said.

“Putting this into perspective and being practical about this, fibre is desirable but it is not a short-term fix for anything because it is expensive and it takes time to roll out.

“In order to meet the business and community objectives today, one has to be practical and commercial at the same time.

“What is in the ground at the moment? There is copper and there is some fibre.

“Fibre serves a good role in terms of linking those exchanges.

“As a base level we need broadband in the terminology of up to 2 megabit per second, for example, available to residential and business communities alike. So that should be the first objective.”

“If the usage is for net access, 1.5mb is fine.

“In an office environment, that is not good enough because there is many people using that 1.5mb.

Further, Mr Stein said that what was acceptable now may not be adequate in the future.

“It’s like going from dial up to ADSL, it’s pretty exciting,” he said.

“As such, ADSL will be outdated at some point. ADSL is a good introductory technology, it will heighten the appetite, but it won’t quell the hunger.”

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