DSL-based Probe 'wasted chance'

Neil James, chairman of a steering committee formed to plan for the country's next-generation internet, believes we would be selling ourselves short with a regional broad-band strategy based on ADSL.

Neil James, chairman of a steering committee formed to plan for the country’s next-generation internet, believes we would be selling ourselves short with a regional broad-band strategy based on ADSL.

If Probe simply becomes a regional ADSL rollout, it would be a missed opportunity, says James, chairman of the Internet2 committee formed last year.

“ADSL is a limited, interim technology — it’s a dead end in terms of bandwidth and reach.”

James’ group is preparing the way to establish a much faster internet backbone, one perhaps topping 40Gbit/s.

Probe’s goal is to supply schools with broadband and then extend the service to other users.

James says Probe should be reaching for the sky.

“If you look at schools and the sorts of things they want to do, [it makes sense]. A single videoconference can be run on ADSL, but a school will probably be wanting to run quite a bit more than that. I thing we’re aiming too low with Probe and we should be taking a leaf out of other countries’ books.

“If you look at Canada and the US, they have local education networks that join into [US Internet2 backbone] Abilene.”

An Industry NZ-funded report issued last month identifies many potential users of an NGI (next-generation internet) network, including the science, research and biotechnology sectors and the film production and post-production industry.

James says New Zealand is lagging behind the rest of the world on next-generation internet.

When he says the rest of the world, he doesn’t just mean the US and Europe, he means our closest neighbour.

“Australia has several access grids and plans to have 10 by the end of the year, whereas New Zealand has none.”

Access grids are custom-built video-conferencing rooms that use multicasting, one of the key next-generation internet technologies, to allow interactive multimedia com-munication across a dozen or more sites.

For those used to dial-up and ADSL connections, contemplating NGI requires looking forward, he says.

“Most people have a bit of a problem visualising what you’d use the bandwidth for, but I believe once they grasp what can be done, things will take off.”

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