Wireless broadband is already providing Australian users with Internet connectivity and its influence is expected to get even more significant with the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network. ARN caught up with BigAir managing director, Jason Ashton, to discuss the state of the broadband market, his thoughts on Internet filtering and what the wireless network operator has planned for the next 12 months.
Can you outline your company background?
Jason Ashton (JA): BigAir owns and operates Australia's largest metropolitan fixed WiMax broadband networks. The Australian business market comprises nearly one million businesses and BigAir's network provides near blanket coverage across the six largest Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth.
BigAir sells high-speed broadband and data services through its partnerships with other telecommunications companies, ISPs and IT service companies. These partners have existing relationships with business customers. BigAir's competitive advantage includes its state-of-the-art WiMax and proprietary wireless networks, which allow us to install business-grade symmetric broadband services at speeds up to 1000Mbps and at distances up to 30km from its base stations, with installation taking just a few hours. Most of BigAir's competitors rely on access to Telstra's copper network, which can take weeks to install a service and often do not deliver fast symmetric speeds. Mobile wireless networks, such as the 3G mobile phone network, are not nearly fast enough to meet the demands of business Internet users in an office environment.
What is your stance on ISP content filtering?
JA: Content filtering should be the responsibility of end users not the carriers, since it places an unnecessary burden on network operators. We do however, already offer some of our customers deep packet inspection services on request. This allows them to manage peer-to-peer traffic and prioritise and manage traffic flows.
Do you forecast any significant changes to the ISP market in the next 12 months?
JA: The ISP market should be fairly stable over the next 12 months as the National Broadband Network [NBN] is not expected to make any impact in the short to medium-term. We do however expect to see ongoing consolidation among the larger ISP players and we also believe that there will be some consolidation in the wireless space as well.
What impact will the NBN have on your company?
JA: We expect the NBN will actually open up a lot of new opportunities for BigAir. One of our key growth areas is for disaster recovery (DR) and backup Internet solutions. Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of having a redundant Internet link in the case of a fibre break or fixed network outage. In a post-NBN world, this risk will be arguably even greater since most ISPs will be using the same NBN network almost exclusively. BigAir will be one of the very few truly independent infrastructure options available to business customers in a post-NBN world.
Do you believe ISPs should be held legally accountable for what their customers share over the Internet? JA: BigAir provides basic Internet and private data connectivity to its customers and we encourage the lawful use of the Internet. However, BigAir and other carriers should not be tasked to be the "gatekeeper" to the Internet, and users should be responsible for their own lawful use of the Internet.