Wednesday, March 06, 2013

NBN Providing Wireless for Regional Areas

In "What reporting of the Brunswick NBN survey didn’t tell you" (Commsday, 5 March 2013), Geoff Long looks at a study of early NBN first-release sites carried out by Melbourne and Swinburne Universities (Broadbanding Brunswick: High-speed Broadband and Household Media Ecologies: A Report on Household Take-up and Adoption of the National Broadband Network in a First Release Site, Dr Bjorn Nansen, Dr Michael Arnold, Dr Rowan Wilken, Dr Martin Gibbs, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, 2013). While the researchers study concentrated on take-up of the NBN Long suggests there should be more research on why 20% of households have no Internet access at all, which is a good question. However, it was not clear to me from the study report if households where residents had one or more  smart phones or tablet computers with broadband wireless built in where counted as connected. If not, then the number of connected households would be greatly under-reported. The popularity of wireless devices might make the concept of "household" connection largely irrelevant, much as mobile phones has lessened the need for a home fixed telephone lines. Previously the number of telephone lines per 1,000 population was used as a measure of the communications access of a country, but this is now largely irrelivant.

 Long also suggests that the study shows that there is no urgency for urban areas to upgrade to fibre. This seems a reasonable conclusion: in urban areas which have good access to Internet via ADSL or cable, this is not a compelling case for fibre. In fact the latest take-up rates for NBN nationally show that of the 34,500 subscribers, 70% are via satellite or terrestrial wireless in regional and remoe areas, with fibre in urban areas being the minority. Also the issue of take-up in the city is not really an issue as the NBN will have an effective fixed line monopoly: the plan is to eventually remove the copper cable, so that if you want a fixed line it will have to be NBN fibre.

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