The take-up rate for the NBN in Tasmania was reported to be 38.5% after three years. The previous government was not too worried about the NBN take-up rate, as the copper network was to be switched off, so consumers would not have much of a choice. Does anyone have statistics for the take-up rate for high speed broadband in other countries?
One option I suggest for Australian urban areas is to combine 4G wireless mobile services with wireless broadband. This could complement FTTN and FTTP. The existing mobile service has limited capacity, but could service moderate home use. The service could be exp[anded by installing picocells on the same fibre used for FTTN and FTTP. Roaming could be enabled to allow a subscriber to any mobile company to use these cells. Also a lower tariff, comparable to wired services, could be offered for those using the wireless service "at home".
Using mobile broadband would create a virtual NBN at low cost. Rather than have to build an extensive wired network and home there were customers, the existing mobile network could be used and then cells added as demand increases.
With advances in 4G the mobile broadband service could carry 4K TV. The advanced HEVC codec allows compression of a HD TV at 6 Mbps and 4k TV at 12 Mbps to 30 Mbps. This could be carried on a 4G LTE-A network, using the Multicast-broadcast single-frequency network (MBSFN) option.
However, many of the community services envisaged for home broadband do not need high speeds. Instead they need trained staff and well designed applications. As an example home health care is mentioned as a use for the NBN. But a person's vital signs (body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate) would only need about 10 bps to transmit. More sophisticated monitors require more bandwidth, bit still far short of broadband, such as such as electrocardiography at 4 kbps.
But the greatest benefit from home health monitoring is likely to come from checking on the patient's general level of activity and asking them how they are. Advice to doctors, commissioned by the Department of Health recommends a minimum of 640 x 480 Video, with a minimum throughput on the link of 384kbit/s should be available, which far less than high speed broadband.
On-line education is also an application often given for home broadband. But while students like rich multimedia, this does not necessarily improve learning. The report "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies" from the US Department of Education found that video does not improve online learning.
There can be considerable public benefit from broadband without running it to each home. Community centres provide not only a way to consolidate technical services, but also provide experts in health and education. Australia now has free Internet access in public libraries, which is an underrated achievement.
Internet in libraries builds on the library's traditional role providing access to information and literacy. Universities and TAFEs are turning their libraries into learning centres, with computers in place of books. They are keeping the staff to help the students, not only work the computers but with finding, using and creating information. The Gungahlin Town Centre Library in Canberra is a good example, where the one building accommodates the public library, a school library, a TAFE campus and broadband connected community rooms. This could be extended to provide support for university students as well.