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The NBN is not about fast Internet

The NBN is not about fast Internet

Alcatel-Lucent calls for the NBN discourse to go beyond the Internet

The Federal Government’s $43 billion national broadband network (NBN) is not just about super-fast Internet access for consumers and decision makers must get out of this mindset, a leading contender to provide access technologies has claimed.

Alcatel-Lucent Asia-Pacific futurologist, Geof Heydon, told ARN many discussions around the NBN – such as those on whether to have fibre running overhead or underground, if wireless was a competitor, and the predicted cost of an Internet broadband plan – were dangerously misleading.

“One of the key things from our point of view is there is a real danger that the people who make the political decisions about what we all get out of this network are thinking about Internet, which means it can be lower cost to deploy because it can be a dumb network. But that really will do the country a disservice,” he said.

“It has to be built so that it has high availability like the voice network does today. It has to be built so you can deliver this range of service choice. A lot of people ask the question, is it cheaper to build a fibre network or just use the copper. I think it is the wrong question – it is more about how we make one infrastructure to deliver all the services we need in the future and what other infrastructures don’t we need anymore.”

Heydon’s comments echo those of several other ICT industry figures who have supported the NBN plan, but raised concerns the discourse had not covered the whole spectrum of issues and opportunities created by the country’s largest infrastructure spend.

Internally, Alcatel-Lucent doesn’t call the plan the NBN, Heydon said, because most people equate broadband to the Internet.

“We see it far more as a national infrastructure, and that infrastructure will carry all information services with broadband Internet being just one of them. IPTV will almost certainly be another, voice services, government-related services and financial services,” he said.

“I think it is good to look at it this way: If you have got any incumbent telco in the world, they have about 100 networks and any one of those networks is purpose-built to serve a particular market-sector or a particular consumer, business or mobile. This network can replace all of them and will over time. So long as we get the competitive structure right and the operating structure right, there should only be one network and it should be used for everything.”

Subsequently, many business models will have to evolve over time – including print media and TV – to leverage the NBN. It is not about cannibalising technology or markets, but rather utilising technology to modernise and create future opportunities. And it is this aspect of the discussion that Heydon contends has been lacking.

“If you said to me, in 20 years time what would be the way we are watching broadcast TV, the answer would be on the fibre network. There won’t be any terrestrial TV anymore – there just won’t be any reason to have it. There will be a migration to fully digital and then I think a migration to fibre-based delivery for everybody,” he said.

“When we are describing IPTV we are not describing the Internet. IPTV in our definition is an infrastructure is IP-based but is not using the Internet at all. It is a completely private network environment.”

*To contact the journalist on this story please email Trevor Clarke.


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