NZ broadband politics puzzle global networking boss

Telco equipment maker CEO says the issue here is 'incredibly politicised'

The president and chief executive of telecommunications equipment giant Ciena, Gary Smith, says he is bemused by the "incredibly politicised" nature of the broadband debate in New Zealand. "I am used to seeing that in a number of countries but not to the extent of the debate here and in Australia." Mr Smith visited Auckland to talk to customers who include TelstraClear and the Southern Cross Cable Network. "The perception among New Zealanders is that New Zealand is kind of behind. I have to say that I don't think New Zealand is behind. I look at the infrastructure here and what is being delivered to customers here and I would say you guys are right up there with most industrialised countries." Ciena is valued at US$1.4 billion on Nasdaq and employs 4000 staff. In March it acquired the optical networking and carrier ethernet assets of Nortel's Metro Ethernet Networks (MEN) business for US$769m. Mr Smith says the concern with improving broadband is "healthy" and great for companies such as Ciena. "For us, all bandwidth is good bandwidth. The only thing I would say is I am intrigued by the specificity of the dialogue." The market should decide whether the requirement is for fibre-to-the-home, or for other technologies, he says. "I would let economics and market forces work out what is the best way of doing it. People are more focused on the delivery mechanism than what they are trying to achieve." Mr Smith says there are a lot of conversations around the world about how to start to deliver the infrastructure envisaged by the Government's ultrafast broadband (UFB) investment initiative and Australia's Next-Generation Network (NBN). But fibre-to-the-home is yet to kick off on a big scale in Europe, he says. "You have got fibre-to-the-home in the United States in certain parts, the Middle East is talking about it, but I do think the more pertinent debate is what are we trying to achieve and what kind of bandwidth are we trying to get where?" In July, Ciena completed a trial with TelstraClear of technology that would allow the carrier to transfer data at speeds of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) over a single wavelength in a fibre-optic cable. TelstraClear chief technologist William Lee said the data speeds were the fastest ever achieved on an intercity telecommunications network in New Zealand. "The trials prove that now we can now go up to 100Gbps and begin engineering solutions for customers based on the availability of those speeds on the core network. "We might not need them at this stage, but the capacity is there as more customers look for ultrafast downloading or when network congestion becomes an issue due to current sustained rates of data volume growth." The same technology could also be used to increase the capacity of the South Cross Cable, which looks set to move from 10Gbps to 40Gbps technology. Mr Smith forecast the international submarine cable market was heading for another boom. "What we are seeing across the globe is submarine cables are filling up. When you think about the `telco nuclear winter' as we came out of 2002, people were predicting that not in our lifetime would we ever use the capacity that was there. "We are getting to the point where a lot of those cables are getting full and we are looking at a refresh cycle, beginning now, over the next two to three years."

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