Forget FTTP, the NBN is about the apps

Forget FTTP, the NBN is about the apps

NICTA laboratory director highlights healthcare, education, social networking and general business as areas for opportunity

The laboratory director of one of Australia’s leading ICT research and development organisations has claimed the national broadband network (NBN) is all about the applications, not the fibre.

While the NBN discourse has been dominated by discussion over its cost and whether to go ahead with a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) architecture, NICTA laboratory director, Dr Terry Percival, said there would be significant advances in application innovation.

“The action is going to be in the applications you run over the network,” Percival said. “Passive optical networks have been rolled out in other parts of the world already, and I am sure people will tweak and tune on it but I don’t think there is major room for innovation in that space, particularly in Australia. It is going to be one of the big four or five companies that are going to do the rollout. The innovation is now going to be about what you do with it and the new opportunities it is going to create.”

The NBN leap frogged Australia over many other parts of the world, he said, and pointed to the development of applications in healthcare, education, social networking and general business as primary areas where innovation would occur and opportunities arise.

“It’s not just getting the nurse to log on everyday and say, ‘Hello, how are you Mrs Smith?’. It’s more about people using it as a source of information,” Percival said.

“That’s for the whole home healthcare sector. And it’s for a huge variety of illnesses and saves people from going to the GP unnecessarily. It also gives them a daily management of their condition, which is much better because they don’t have to wait two weeks to go to the GP. The cost savings are enormous.”

However, he put particular emphasis on educational applications and the expected ubiquity of mobile computing.

“We are now giving all our students one laptop and they are going to take it home. So if you have a family with three children who each have a laptop they are going need a lot of bandwidth to get out there,” he said.

“The whole availability of online content is ramping up. Students are going to access the content including video tutorials. Some interesting technologies need to be developed to do mash ups.”

In terms of the platforms or programming languages the expected applications will be built on, Percival claimed a need for innovation.

“Some of it will be built on existing tools, but there has to be some real technologies that come out,” he said.

In recent days the Rudd Government has opened a consultation process to ensure that FTTP technology is installed in all new substantial greenfield property developments from July 1, 2010.

And research commissioned by Big Blue, and conducted by Access Economics, claimed the NBN would facilitate the evolution of the Australian economy to smart infrastructure.

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