Australia plays catch up with NZ on broadband

Australia's federal government has finally realised the importance of broadband development to the national economy, following the release of a report into broadband development, says telco analyst Paul Budde.

Australia's federal government has finally realised the importance of broadband development to the national economy, following the release of a report into broadband development, says telco analyst Paul Budde.

Budde says the government's Broadband Advisory Group (BAG) report into broadband brings Australia up to the same level as New Zealand in terms of broadband development, perhaps even a little ahead.

"You had all this last year with the government's Knowledge Wave conference and the regional broadband projects, however this is a more visionary document I believe."

The BAG was set up in mid 2002 to look at broadband connectivity issues and to recommend a course of action for the Australian federal government. Members include Telstra's chief executive Ziggy Switkowski, Cisco's Australia and New Zealand managing director Terry Walsh and minister of communications Richard Alston among others.

The BAG has outlined 19 recommendations that it believes will help stimulate the Australian economy by as much as an additional $A18 billion a year.

"A policy of encouraging widespread broadband adoption could deliver accelerated economic value within years rather than decades" says the report.

Budde is concerned, however, that the Australian government does like to talk about such things and not then deliver the goods.

"We have a lot of inquiries and the like. Australia is big on inquiries and talking and we've had quite a few over the past 18 months in the telco area."

Budde is unhappy to see that this report does not refer to any of the other reports into broadband or telecommunications that have come out in the recent months, despite them all covering similar territory.

"There's no one approach, no unified way forward."

One area where Australia is well ahead of New Zealand in terms of broadband, according to Budde, is that the government has split incumbent telco Telstra into wholesale and retail arms.

"That issue still isn't addressed fully in New Zealand and I know the [telecommunications] commissioner will be looking at it this year but it will still take a couple of years to fully cement into place."

Budde says unbundling of the local loop is the only way forward when an incumbent is reluctant to wholesale its network fully.

The BAG report can be read here.

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