Broadband and bottlenecks in the bay

Hawke's Bay is home to art deco buildings, world-class vineyards and over 120,000 people, most of whom are clustered in the three main centres: Gisborne, Napier and Hastings. Consequently, Paul Brislen finds, broadband initiatives outside the central business districts are, to date, limited.

Hawke’s Bay is home to art deco buildings, world-class vineyards and over 120,000 people, most of whom are clustered in the three main centres: Gisborne, Napier and Hastings. Consequently, Paul Brislen finds, broadband initiatives outside the central business districts are, to date, limited.

“We hope to offer JetStream in Havelock North by the end of August,” says Telecom spokeswoman Mary Parker, referring to Telecom’s DSL-based fast internet offering. Telecom already offers its leased line service to “most of the Hawke’s Bay” and ISDN in both Napier and Hastings, along with some capacity in other centres.

But what about broadband beyond the city limits?

“Sure they’ve installed DSL but it’s on the CBD’s exchange,” says Gisborne-based web design company Webfoot’s director Russell Holland. “We’re out in the industrial park with a number of companies crying out for broadband and there’s nothing for us.” He doesn’t mind the lack of bandwidth available to his team so much — he says it keeps their designs nice and tight.

“We’ve looked at Ihug’s satellite system but over here there are problems with connection consistency and the satellite footprint that really rules that out.”

Clear’s fibre-optic backbone does go through Napier to Whakatane and Clear can provide wireless access for internet and local access to the backbone throughout the region. “We’ll look at extending that as demand and feasibility allows,” says Clear public affairs manager Ralph Little.

Meanwhile, TelstraSaturn is still building its network in the North Island. A lack of population and remoteness is the largest problem for the telcos.

Telecom and Ihug have signed a partnership deal to offer high-speed connectivity to Wairoa, a small township north of Napier.

“It’s in conjunction with the Tairawhiti task force. They were looking for something like this in that region,” says Telecom general manager for government relations Bruce Parkes. He says projects such as Wairoa.com need the backing of local interests to get off the ground. “It’s no good us coming in from Wellington and setting it up if there’s nobody there to drive it when we leave.”

Wairoa.com consists of 20 PCs recycled from WINZ and hooked up to either dial-up phone lines or to Ihug’s satellite-based high speed Ultra connection. “Locals then have assets which they can work with,” says Parkes. Some of the local initiatives include working with tertiary institutes to train locals using these machines, he says, something that couldn’t be achieved under simple dial-up conditions. Parkes also doesn’t rule out offering JetStream connections to Wairoa.com when DSL capability comes to town.

“For the sake of New Zealand’s future it’s important that we don’t allow a digital divide to develop,” says Parkes.

Telecommunications company Ericsson has a development centre in the Hawke’s Bay and isn’t fazed by the lack of options when it comes to broadband connectivity. Its data services division is based in Napier and this unit was instrumental in the TelstraSaturn network rollout, currently underway in Auckland.

The division also provides an IDSL solution to a Polish telecommunications company. IDSL is an ISDN-DSL hybrid that provides 115Kbit/s data and voice services. The division is also working on development of SHDSL, symmetrical high speed DSL that would offer end users symmetrical speeds of up to 2.3Mbit/s.

The Napier group is attached to Ericsson’s corporate IT LAN via a 2Mbit/s frame relay link providing voice over IP (VoIP) as well as data services. The Swedish equipment company works closely with ISP Internet Hawke’s Bay, which provides a 2Mbit/s link for the development team’s support activities.

Companies wanting a true broadband connection in Hawke’s Bay would appear to be best building their own equipment.

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