BROADBAND Understand Broadband – Our A to Z guide for executives

Coming initially, says Telecom, to “a few selected major metro areas” by the end of the year. ADSL2+ is the newer, much faster, version of the most prevalent type of broadband, ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) which runs over existing copper phone lines into the home or business.
Telecom says ADSL2+, offering speeds of up to 24 Megabits per second, will facilitate quality “triple play” services (voice, video and data), which will be good for business because it will make applications like video conferencing more feasible.

Business opportunities

The main charge levelled at Telecom by those who bemoan this country’s poor state of broadband uptake is that it is stif-ling business opportunities.
“There are whole segments of the market that just can’t exist because broadband is too slow and too expensive,” says Greg Woolley, managing director of Certus, an IT consultancy.
“Digital streaming, movies, digital content on demand – stuff that’s in North America and Europe through their extensive cable networks – we just don’t have that.”

Most commonly used in the broadband contest to refer to the merging of broadband and mobile phone technologies. Telecom is investigating following British Telecom’s lead in introducing dual-mode phone which would operate over the cellular network when the user is out and through wireless link back to fixed lines when they were at home or work.
The advantage to customers would be the convenience of single phone and – hopefully – cheaper calling.

Douglas Webb
With the Government’s decision to unbundle the local loop, telecommunications commissioner Douglas Webb has finally got what he called for in September 2003.
The Government’s regulatory clampdown on Telecom also gives watchdog Webb new powers to assist in “future-proofing the regulatory environment”. He will be empowered to undertake strategic reviews of the telco sector’s performance.

Ernie Newman
Perhaps the best-known face of telco-agitation through his role as chief executive of the Telecommunications Users Association (Tuanz). Newman and Tuanz believe Telecom needs to be split up into wholesale and retail divisions to promote stronger competition (see Structural separation).
Other lobby groups were also furiously bending the Government’s ear in the months prior to the recent regulatory developments. Amongst them: the Internet Service Providers Association (Ispanz), grouping of ISPs which reformed last year after period of dormancy.
Big business has also been nagging Government about the impact of not acting to boost broadband penetration. IBM, Microsoft and Symantec were amongst companies to make their opinions known.

While ADSL technology – broadband via standard phone lines – is the simplest, cheapest way of getting fast internet into the home or office, another option is Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). It replaced the copper line to the jackpoint with fibre-optic cable. Telecom is trialling FTTP in about 400 homes in the South Auckland suburb of Flatbush as part of its preparation for the roll-out of its high-tech $1.4 billion “Next-Generation Network” which will offer flash new digital services such as video calling.

In regulating to force Telecom to open its local loop to competitors, the Government, and new-ish Telco Minister David Cunliffe have reacted to the growing unease being voiced about our low broadband uptake and the impact it has on the economy.
A sign that the heat was being turned up came in February when the Prime Minister used her opening address to Parliament to damn the current quality, price and uptake of broadband.
Cunliffe’s “stock-take” of the industry followed and now Mexico will stand alone as the only OECD country not to unbundle its local loop.

A game Telecom knows how to play. Chief executive Theresa Gattung famously showed this by sending (then secret) letter to the Government setting out the dire consequences, as she perceived them, for Telecom and ultimately the country of unbundling.
More recently Telecom has been saying it needs certainty in the regulatory environment to invest in new technology infrastructure. Unbundling was not the certainty it was hoping for. How its broadband investment plans change as result remain to be seen.

The country’s third-largest internet service provider and the second biggest supplier of ADSL broadband behind Telecom’s Xtra. ihug has fearless and energetic boss in Mark Rushworth, an ex-Telecom insider turned vocal critic of his former employer.
ihug will be one of the companies leading the competitive charge in the newly unbundled environment and has previously said it would invest up to $20 million in ADSL2+ technology as soon as it has access to Telecom’s exchanges.

Where it all begins and ends for the consumer. Telcos understand that people generally aren’t too interested in how technology works, as long as device works when they plug it in. Telecom is pushing new business application, Connection Manager, as an example of meeting people’s needs through simplification. Connection Manager gives laptop users access to the internet by listing all available connections when they power up, including any wi-fi networks, their office network or home broadband connection.

Sadly, still the way most of us measure broadband speed when we should be talking more in Mbps (megabits per second as opposed to kilobits per second). The good news: broadband will continue to get faster and cheaper. Telecom improved ADSL speeds in April and is promising progressive rollout of the much-faster ADSL2+ beginning this year. The Government’s plans to regulate away speed caps imposed by Telecom will also be welcomed by broadband speed freaks.

Last mile
Until now, headache for ISPs. The last mile is the connection from the exchange into customer’s home or business. Most ISPs have relied on Telecom’s “local loop” for last mile access, and have paid for the privilege. Others, like Woosh, have developed wireless technologies to circumvent Telecom’s network completely. Perhaps ironically, the unbundling of the local loop takes the gloss off Woosh’s innovative approach because the copper last mile is now faster, cheaper alternative.

Mobile broadband
Getting your broadband wirelessly will become an increasingly popular option as prices drop, and technology and speed improve. Vodafone recently cut the cost of its mobile data plans significantly, forcing Telecom to follow suit. While Vodafone’s mobile data service is still relatively slow, the company is promising higher-speed 3G broadband offering by the end of the year.
While it has not revealed pricing details, Vodafone is pitching the new service as an attractive option for large proportion of broadband users.
Telecom, meanwhile, is also promising faster mobile connections with the roll-out this year of an upgrade to its mobile network.

Naked DSL
The supply of DSL broadband connection into the home or office independent of phone service. Until now Telecom has not allowed DSL connections unless the line into property is active as phone line (and thus incurring phone line rental charges). But the Government has mandated that naked DSL be made available. Supporters of the concept, such as ihug’s Mark Rushworth, say naked DSL will put pressure on phone line pricing because broadband users can access alternatives such as Skype.

OECD comparisons
With 8.1 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, New Zealand languishes at 22nd place on the OECD’s league tables of member country connectivity, well below the average country rate of 11.7.
Why does our ranking matter? InternetNZ executive director Keith Davidson says broadband is vital baseline technology for future economic development. He says if our uptake rates of the technolo

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