Education will lead health in UFB demand says ComCom

Speed of uptake for fast fibre services will depend on telco enabling and pricing, the Commerce Commission cautions

There is already “significant demand for connectivity” from school students who use their own devices, and this demand will increase as more schools provide devices, concludes the second of three issues papers on the uptake of ultra fast broadband (UFB) released by the Commerce Commission today.

“There are 760,000 students in New Zealand’s primary and secondary schools,” writes the paper’s author, Ernie Newman, former chief executive of the TUANZ. “The emerging expectation that a high proportion will be on-line at once, including use of bandwidth-hungry video, at school during the day and at home after that, means there is enormous potential demand for fast broadband.”

However, he cautions that the speed of uptake and amount of demand will depend on how well the telecommunications industry enables, markets and prices the services.

While UFB will open up opportunities for innovative ways of teaching, and will help to revitalise rural schools, the paper adds that teacher training institutions will have to take a leadership role to ensure that New Zealand keeps pace with comparable countries in e-learning.

By contrast the Commission says that the health sector “has yet to maximise on the transformation opportunities that the internet can deliver.”

According to Newman, the National Health IT Board’s objective of universal on-line Shared Care Records by 2014 will be the single biggest determinant of health sector demand for UFB, but it will not be instantaneous.

“An initial burst will appear in 2014 when people will be able to go on-line and view their personal health records,” the report says.

“However, the main impact on demand for bandwidth will come as people become accustomed to more self-management of their health and wellness, using an ever-increasing pool of on-line video and multimedia content in support.”

“UFB will do more for health, than health will do for UFB,” Newman concludes. “However from a national perspective the economic and social benefit will potentially be substantial.”

The paper on health and education follows a paper on UFB technical issues published on December 19 2011. The Commission will publish a final UFB discussion paper on February 7, which will look at consumers’ willingness to pay for high speed broadband, and at content and applications.

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