2014 - The cyber election?

As we get ready to face the polling booth tomorrow, I've been reflecting on the campaign and how it impacts on the ICT sector in New Zealand.

I was hoping that we would get some serious discussion going on how ICT is going to shape our countries future. The Government is now 6 years into the biggest program of ICT infrastructure investment in New Zealands history: how's that going? Are we going to be able to use that as a base for building a prosperous and sustainable future? 

We're also becoming acutely aware of the impact of the digital world and our place in it, our notions of sovereignty, security and safety are all being challenged. We have been offered alternatives during the campaign but again this is an area that gained little to no media traction. 

Despite all of this I think its fair to say that this has been a cyber election in many ways, we've got a dedicated Internet Party, hacking, blogging and cyber surveillance have dominated the headlines and sadly drowned out the policy debates. 

Interestingly its been National that have opened the chequebook for both urban and rural Kiwi's in New Zealand's heartland with over $300 million of new spending on extending the UFB from 75 to 80% of NZ towns and money for filling in mobile blackspots and extending rural broadband.

The idea I hope survives from other ICT policies is the need for more vision and leadership driven by a CTO for New Zealand - we do need one. 

And I think a digital bill of rights is inevitable, but we need to understand just what is at stake. 

Vote well tomorrow. 

Some Giganews...

Firstly the five 'gigatown' finalists have been selected and sadly #gigatownporirua came in sixth.

The other related news is that Orcon have announced that they will be the RSP for the winning gigatown.

So its congratulations to Gisbourne, Nelson, Timaru, Wanaka and Dunedin who get to go to Chattanooga and then its on the finals.

For the rest of us there is still 'gigahope' in that the TCF now have a working party looking at creating a residential gigabit service spec, so while we won't be getting the gigatown deal we can all look forward to gigabit services.


Rural New Zealand wants gigabit equality

Federated Farmers and TUANZ believe it is essential the next Government delivers better connectivity to rural New Zealand, and is keen to work with them to make that happen.

 “We are encouraged by the National Party’s further commitment of $150million, if they’re re-elected, and hope to see a similar commitment from our next Government announced this Saturday” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Telecommunications Spokesperson.

 “Federated Farmers and TUANZ support a Gigabit Agenda for Rural New Zealand that doesn’t leave our productive sector behind.  We need to talk about gigabit speeds, where farmers can eventually get their gigabytes as fast as the townies do.

 “National’s $100million contestable fund is a great start to deliver gigabit speed where it matters. Rural ISP’s such as Uber Group, Amuri.net, Farmside etcetera are the foot soldiers of rural broadband/connectivity.  With no assistance from government to date, it’ll be exciting to see what they can do if they get some backing.

“If we don’t address the gigabit gap, the digital divide will be worse in 10 years time than it was when the Rural Broadband Initiative was introduced

 If we don't address the gigabit gap, the digital divide will be worse in 10 years time than it was when the Rural Broadband Initiative was introduced.  Rural broadband needs to be for everyone, not just rural schools and towns, and it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg to get it.

“I am one of many who have found alternate ways to get my farm on the grid, through radio receivers and solar power, proof that you don’t need a multimillion dollar network to build your own wireless, but it shouldn’t be this hard.
— Anders Crofoot

 “To date schemes to get rural broadband and cell service have not been ambitious enough. We'd like to make an ambitious suggestion that the fund should be used to pilot rural broadband solutions that have the potential to deliver gigabit speeds to New Zealand's farms within 10 years.

 “If we are going to make a real impact we need to think outside the box and understand that the technology requirements for rural are not the same as they are for urban.  Similar to the days when phone lines were slow to be delivered to farms, farmers are more than willing to do their part to make this happen.  All we need is for the big boys to play ball!

 “Rural New Zealand is the engine room of our economy, and if we are to double our exports by 2025, $35.2 billion in 2013, we need to empower farmers to operate their business efficiently and effectively.

“This is not just a story about farming businesses either; it’s also about the social wellbeing of rural communities. We implore the next government to match their urban and rural aspirations, bringing gigabit equality over the next decade.”
— Anders Crofoot



Are we approaching 'Steady State?'

For as long as I've been involved with the internet, it's been a truism that speeds are always increasing. This has created the current eco-system where we are now locked into a seemingly perpetual upgrade cycle of increasing processor speeds, increased storage capacity and finally increased bandwidth all wrapped up in a shiny device on a 24 month contract.

I know I try and make laptops last 4-5 years and I also try and get 3-4 years out of my phones. This cycle is showing signs of slowing down, it's getting really hard to tell the difference between a 1.8Ghz quad core processor and a 2.4Ghz one, the cloud is making local storage a moot point in a world of $100 1TB USB hard drives and now you can even get a 512GB SD card .

So that leaves bandwidth as the last great driver of the upgrade cycle, mobile devices are going to take us through 2 more cycles, full 4G, that is devices that include the recently auctioned 700Mhz spectrum bands and then in about 8-10 years time we'll get 5G and the promise of up to 1Gb/s in our hands.

Most of our other technologies have already passed this point:

  • Fibre Optics - The record is currently 42Tb/s
  • Ethernet - 100Gb/s is commercially available
  • GPON - 10GPON is available (the UFB is based on 1GPON
  • WiFi - 3.2Gb/s WiFi routers are already available in NZ
  • Point to point wireless - 1Gb/s equipment is available today

So the final bottleneck is mobile broadband and 5G should get there around 2022 - 2024

But then what happens? It's going to be hard to maintain the full blown 'hype cycle' on details like battery life and screen density when everything else will be as fast as we're going to need for quite a long time.

And thats the point where I wonder if we'll hit the steady state of bandwidth, this magical point will hopefully usher in an age of efficiency in applications and services. Current business models are driven by the assumption that bandwidth is scarce and expensive, but when it becomes ubiquitous we'll need new business models.

The steady state has occurred in other industries like electricity (240 volts AC @ 60Hz) and gets enforced in others like fuel octane ratings and highway speed limits. Once the steady state occurs the full economic benefit of the emerging technology can truly manifest themselves.

Reliable, reticulated electricity has for the last 100 years allowed our civilisation to deliver more comfort, health and wealth to more people than any preceding time in human history, what impact will reliable ubiquitous bandwidth have on the next 100 years?