Thursday, December 10, 2009

NBN CEO on Our Broadband Future

Greetings from the Realising Our Broadband Future forum at University of NSW in Sydney (you can participate remotely). Mike Quigley, Chief Executive Officer of NBN Co., has been explaining that the National Broadband Network is installing fibre to the premises for demanding applications, such as video. He argued that wireless broadband could not provide this due to limited spectrum (in fact the conference organisers asked deli gates to limit their access o the WiFi in the room). The NBN CEO suggests they will need a couple of KA Band satellites for remote areas of Australia (which brings us back to AusSat). NBN will also provide an analog telephone adaptor.

Most of what Mike Quigley said I agree with. However, wireless devices do not necessarily needs as much bandwidth as fixed devices. When watching video on your mobile phone you need much less bandwidth than when watching on a regular TV. This is because the mobile device has a much smaller screen and so needs less data. Similarly, mobile web applications need less bandwidth because people are busy doing other things when they are out and about. Applications in the "cloud" can summarise the data and present just what the user wants to know then and there. A good example of how this has surprised telecommunications companies are SMS and e-mail. These are very plain text based services which take little bandwidth, but a very popular

In my view, the NBN will need to evolve to incorporate wireless. This might be done at, or near the premises. Under current schemes, the NBN will deliver fibre to the home. The customer will then likely attach a wireless router to the NBN termination. As a result the last 10m of the NBN will be wireless. However, this last 10m, which is the most important to the customer will not be managed by the NBN and will waste capacity. Each premise will have a separate wireless device, which will compete for bandwidth. I suggest that instead the NBN should provide a terminating device with wireless built in. That wireless can then be used by the customer in their own home, but also shared with their neighbours. This will make a cheaper, more resilient system. If the home owner's NBN link fails, they can automatically switch over to use the neighbours. If they need more than one node provides, they can use several. If a smart meter or burglar alarm is installed in their hoe, ti will take no configuration, as it can use the standard wireless. Similar wireless telephony can use the wireless network.

Next is: Jeffrey Cole, Director USC Annenberg School.

Senator Kate Lundy will then be launching my book "Green Technology Strategies" in her speech. But first the Minister for Communications will introduce Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister.

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