Dean Lyon’s company, Oktobor, is the kind the country could see more of if bright ideas expressed last week become reality.Lyon (pictured left) was one of 200 people at a Telecommunications Users Association-organised event in Nelson whose aim was to come up with uses of a countrywide broadband network infrastructure. Also present was Chris O’Connell (pictured right) of Radar Guidance, who told the assembled thinkers — representing 10 sectors of the community — how broadband was already being used.
Oktobor’s use — shifting large files — is in line with one of the most common network applications identified by O’Connell. He is in the throes of a government-funded study of users of Wellington’s CityLink fibre metropolitan area network.
According to O’Connell, “the limits of your office are no longer the limits of your network”.
Oktobor is living proof of that. The company does film post-production work, among other things, and includes involvement in the Lord of the Rings on its CV. Its base is in Wellington and it has offices in Auckland and Sydney.
Wellington is where its pair of SGI Onyx graphics systems is located, which used to mean that Auckland customers had to fly to the capital to view work in progress. But Lyon says a 100Mbit/s video link between the two cities means a customer in Auckland can watch an artist in Wellington make final film edits in real time, and approve a project without the need to travel.
“In reality that could have worked equally well anywhere in the world,” Lyon says. That might soon be put to the test: as a result of its Lord of the Rings work, Oktobor is fielding inquiries from potential customers in the US.
O’Connell’s study is a detailed look at how 20 CityLink customers use the optical fibre network, which connects them to the internet and, potentially, to each other, without need of an internet service provider. One of his conclusions is that such networks spell trouble for ISPs, particularly those with business customers.
“[Internet service provision] is a superstar business of the 90s that has to rethink its existence,” O’Connell contends.
If business ISPs disappear, bandwidth brokers will emerge in their place. O’Connell also predicts the re-emergence of application service providers; their killer application will be FTP serving.
Judith Speight, chair of the telecommunications group and one of the architects of the Nelson event, says partnership with the government will be important for turning broadband application ideas into reality.
Economic and regional development minister Jim Anderton, who spoke at the event, says the same cleverness which earned Nelson-born Lord Rutherford a Nobel prize needs to be employed to come up with broadband applications.
“We have to set a target for more Rutherfords,” says Anderton. “We want to take applications from New Zealand to the world; the potential, as you know, is immense.”
Anderton says he was impressed by the enthusiasm of conference attendees as they set about the mission of thinking up applications, saying their efforts would help New Zealand climb back up the OECD’s national prosperity rankings.
“I’d like to assure you the government will work closely with your industry to find out ways to unleash the creativity of New Zealanders.”
Despite the broadband starvation being suffered in the regions, he says 10 out of 14 are managing to grow at more than 4% a year at present.