Date: 14th October 2014
As delegates from the final five Gigatowns – Dunedin, Gisborne, Nelson, Timaru and gigatownWanaka – descend on Chattanooga to draw inspiration from the city’s gigabit internet connectivity, we step back and review the state of Ultra Fast Broadband in New Zealand.
The following is an excerpt from Ultra Fast Business by Fernando Beltran in the University of Auckland Business Review.
It is hoped that the roll-out of a nationwide high-speed digital network will fuel innovation. But for that to happen, users, service providers, regulators and networks must combine to form an effective broadband ecosystem.
New Zealand has begun a radical overhaul of its telecommunications infrastructure that will allow individuals and businesses to access information-based services through a high-speed fibre-optics system known as the UFB network.
The government-backed infrastructure initiative is a political response to the slow uptake of optical-fibre technology by private operators and to research that shows the economic benefits of such high-speed networks.
The decision to run optical fibre to 75 per cent of New Zealand households rests largely on the expectation that establishing a modern, high-speed network will fuel innovation. A World Bank study found that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration generated an increase in GDP of about 1.5 per cent.
Providing business stability and reducing regulatory and market uncertainties for fibre investors is crucial if the country is to reap the benefits of the new infrastructure. Exploiting the potential of a fibre-based broadband network requires a good understanding of how users, service providers, regulators and networks combine to form an effective broadband ecosystem.
Telecommunications services have largely shifted from being place-focused—when a telephone line belonged to a building—to people-focused, as is the case of mobile networks today. Shortly they will also focus on physical objects, as it is expected that everything from electrical appliances and entertainment devices to industrial machinery and even ‘intelligent’ clothing will be connected to the ‘Internet of Things’ and to generate and transmit information in real time. These people-centred and object-centred connectivity modes will generate large amounts of data and information for which UFB will provide reliable connectivity pipelines.
Tennessee’s fourth-largest city, Chattanooga, developed a 1 Gigabit fibre-optics network using federal funds and private capital. Chattanooga’s community-owned electric utility invested in a FTTH (fibre to the home) network built to run a smart grid and offer internet-based services to its residents. The high-speed network, which is 50 times faster than the national average, is a collaboration involving the city government, the electric utility, and private investors.
Chattanooga’s success has led to the creation of start-ups fostered by Gigtank, a business accelerator that seeks to exploit the potential of the network to bring new, fibre-based services to the market. Said to be the world’s only start-up accelerator connected to a living, city-wide fibre-optic network, Gigtank supports start-up teams through a network of mentors, industry specialists and business development resources. The teams have access to Chattanooga’s 1 Gbps internet service while conceiving businesses designed to operate and evolve on advanced broadband platforms.
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