Saturday, January 26, 2008

No home line? what about the internet

Having just moved to Wellington I have recently been through the process of setting up broadband access. The whole process was more difficult than I had planned for but it got me thinking of various approaches to avoid sitting in the internet cafe....

Naked DSL
Cable Broadband
Public WiFi
Public WiMax

The classic approach would be ADSL. The apartment we moved to didn't have a phone line already connected which is the pre-requisite for ADSL. Who says you don't need copper anymore?

Given the take up of mobile handsets as the only phone of choice for many people what then are the choices when you don't have a land line? This is where Naked DSL comes to the fore. There are however scarce numbers of providers that run Naked DSL lines into homes, none that I could see in New Zealand.

There is however Telstra Clear that operate a cable network to supply TV, Voice and with a cable modem broadband access. This is the best option for subscribers in the US if you want to drop your Ma Bell telephone in favour of your mobile "line". The down side is that Telstra Clear are still pushing cable and haven't got as far as pushing cable anywhere near our apartment yet :( If you're in Auckland, Vector is extending their fibre network at the moment.

AirCards are quite popular here. In a country with ~4 Million people only 400K households have broadband subscriptions. This is where the AirCard fills the gap. Run by Vodafone it's usage of the CDMA network to get "broadband" access, faster than dial up (but we'll ignore that as we're assuming we don't have a phone line) but not by much. OK for IM and Email but not much more than that.

The last two are nowhere near developed in New Zealand yet, although plans are moving forward for a network of WiFi hotspots in Auckland.

Still there is a strong argument for Telcos to invest in their most visible asset, that of the public telephone network (pay phones). So I raise the notion again that if people are really dropping their land lines in favour of mobile then use the copper assets to drive some value added connectivity for people who want broadband access. The other option for public WiFi is for utilities companies to build out capability. Vector is an electricity, gas and communications company. Street lights are even more common place than payphones, many phone boxes have already been decommissioned. This is a natural network than could easily be adapted to provide more than light.

The final part is the continued promise of WiMax. Telecom did win the auction for spectrum and have asked to begin to develop plans around the technology. We could see extensions to the Broadcast trials to build out a real alternative for broadband coverage. After an unsuccessful foray into fixed wireless access by Ionica in the UK WiMax will become the fixed wireless access platform of choice for many countries.

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