CONSULTING ROOM: A look back and a glimpse of the future
- 21 January, 2011 14:59
It was the year that saw the rise of the tablet, and a year in which Tony Abbott found optical fibre a bitter pill to swallow.
It is astonishing - Apple’s iPad is such a pervasive part of modern life that it feels as though it has been around for a year or two. In fact, the über-gadget was launched on April 3, 2010. Next year will see a rugby-maul of competitive activity as other manufacturers battle for tablet space. And a new acronym to boot – Ultra Mobile Devices (UMDs) are now pushing their way into the lexicon.
2010 was remarkable also for the fact that the national broadband debate made it to front and centre, managing even to decide the fate of national government. Not since the spectre of timed local calls created by-election havoc for the Hawke Government has communications technology been such a vote-swinger. And never – never ever – have we been treated to the bizarre orgy of speed-dating that preceded the formation of the Gillard Government. Let’s pray it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Shortly after the horse bolted, Tony Abbott put some heavyweight talent into the portfolio in the form of Malcolm Turnbull. He has lifted the standard of the debate from the Coalition side by many notches, but will find it hard to convince that his push for further analysis of the NBN is not just a hand grenade in a posy.
2010 has been a tough year for Mike Quigley. When he donated his salary to a worthy cause one could be forgiven for thinking this cried out: “No way could you pay me enough to do this job!!” But NBN Co has zoomed out of the gates since the enforced caretaker-period hiatus and is making progress on multiple fronts in the lead-up to the mainland assault.
This year saw continued consolidation within the communications sector, with some increasingly powerful tier two players at the forefront. iiNet acquired Netspace and the residential broadband customer base of AAPT. Vaughan Bowen continued on his acquisitive way over at the M2 group, and TPG snapped up Pipe Networks.
The rate of consolidation in 2011, particularly among smaller ISPs, is likely to be influenced by the outcome of the debate over NBN Co’s Points of Interconnect (PoIs) – a fiendishly complex set of potential variables that will see many pencils chewed at the ACCC and might profoundly affect industry structure in the fibre-based environment. Yet it wasn’t all about consolidation – some new players made their presence felt, including Vocus Communications, which managed to grow by 11,000 per cent over the past 12 months.
2010 brought intense debate over customer service in the telecommunications sector, with the Minister foreshadowing some legislative moves, ACMA boss, Chris Chapman, launching an inquiry, and the “fearless & feisty” Teresa Corbin grabbing the top job at ACCAN. We at Communications Alliance are facilitating an overhaul of the industry’s Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code – a high-stakes exercise designed to help ensure that Australian consumers receive the world-class performance that we know our industry can deliver.
2011 will see Stephen Conroy take on the regulatory equivalent of Rachmaninov’s Third – a comprehensive review of regulation on a converged digital economy. When the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act are smashed against one another in the search for a coherent framework for the digital age, there will be colour, movement, grazed knees and entertainment for all.
John Stanton is the CEO of Communications Alliance