National broadband roll-out could mean more video-on-demand and games direct to your home – but what about business?

14 December 2012

Dr Fernando Beltran

New Zealand’s national fibre-based broadband roll-out is in danger of offering nothing more than faster video-on-demand and computer games if opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship are missed, Dr Fernando Beltran warns.

Dr Beltran, a senior lecturer in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management, says the new Ultra-fast Broadband (UFB) network currently being laid will have a deep impact on the country’s existing telecommunications landscape.

However, early indications are that – regardless of their size – providers may be “planning to offer more of the same, just faster: more video-on-demand and more games,” Dr Beltran says.

“If building such an expensive network is meant to deliver on the government’s expectations of innovation, creativity and economic growth, we need to identify now the opportunities for new businesses to flourish on the open access platform,” Dr Beltran says.

“Whilst it is early days, New Zealand needs to decide how its publicly funded telecommunications structure can create space for meaningful and socially beneficial contributions.

“That planning requirement is important because we already have schools in this country with fibre to the door and no providers willing to offer valuable services, which is a ridiculous situation.”

Dr Beltran says the platform will enable new entrants to compete for the provision of IP-based services, meaning that the focus will not just be on entertainment uses. However, more international capacity is required because the UFB cannot remain an in-house New Zealand enterprise.

“If New Zealand does not have additional competitive international connectivity infrastructure, incentives may be low for some entrepreneurs and start-ups to venture into innovative services whose markets may be mainly abroad,” he says.

Dr Beltran says that the recent Internet Technical Architecture Conference meeting in Auckland looked at places like Cleveland in the United States, where optical fibre has been used for 30 years. Case Western Reserve, the main city university, has in that time used it to connect with the poor communities in the city.

“It is now used as a non-commercial way of getting essential services to people, such as healthcare and education. With the willingness and integration of several providers, this has been a great success and could be done here on a smaller scale.”

Read about Case Western Reserve University’s project