Gigatown

Chorus has launched a promotion that will give one town in New Zealand gigabit speeds on the Ultra Fast Broadband network.

One gigabit per second is fast. OECD rankings suggest that only four countries in the world offer national 1Gbit/s plans – Turkey, Slovenia, Sweden and Japan (this was in 2011 so there may be more by now) and that most top out at about half that speed.

We’re talking about 1000Mbit/s. Today I get 15Mbit/s download so to call it a step change is something of an understatement. My upload speed is barely 1Mbit/s.

We tend to get complacent about the fantastic advances technology makes each year. A doubling of capacity, a tripling of speed, these numbers become run of the mill and users are blasé about them. But a thousand fold increase in my upload speed would be startling to put it mildly, so good on Chorus for trying this out.

The economic potential of offering such a service is astonishing. Think what having such a speed would do to the way we think about remote working or having to live in the main centres. Think about what access to the world at those kinds of speeds would mean for start-up software developers and to our migration patterns. Software companies should be lining up for our cheap housing and staff with no fear of us being too removed from the world.

Movie studios would look more to New Zealand for filming opportunities than they do today – getting the rushes sent back to LA or New York or further afield to the UK or Germany is a major problem and it’s not the international leg so much as getting the footage out of Wellington and up to the Southern Cross Cable.

But I have a question. Given this capability is clearly available today, why are we talking about an entry level product of 30Mbit/s download speed? Why are we talking about an upload speed barely ten times what I get today?

Why aren’t we talking about an entry level plan of 100/100 followed swiftly by 250/250 and 500/500? Why aren’t we offering 1000/1000 at launch?

Speeds like these would help encourage people to move to fibre in a way that talking about 30/10 plans simply won’t.

The entry level price point is on par with copper and the entry level speed is on par with copper so why on earth would I shift over?

No, the real lesson from Gigatown is that we should all have that kind of capability and we should all have it sooner rather than later. Only then will we see all those nice things in the video come to fruition. Economic development, e-health initiatives, educational opportunities, rural regeneration, population increase, regional development.

Suddenly, the entry level product is the barrier to uptake, not the enabler. It’s time we revisited the UFB’s promise if we’re ever to achieve the future depicted in the Gigatown promotion.