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1000Mbps is sexy, itís cool, but is it worth $43bn?

By Jeff Hosking - posted Tuesday, 17 August 2010


There has been a lot of hype about the national broadband network and why Australia needs to spend $43 billion to upgrade every home in Australia to this target. As the statistics below clearly show, the demand for broadband is increasing in the percentage of households, and the creaky infrastructure presently owned by Telstra is the limiting factor in reaching the capacities available in other OECD countries.

There is no doubt that the 100 or 1000 Megabits per second (Mbps) is a massive capacity, and will meet the needs of everyone for the foreseeable future, but then $43bn is a huge sum of money, about $5,400 per household. While for some this is a drop in the ocean, for most people this is a fair chunk of change.

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The questions that need to be asked seriously before expenditure of this nature is authorised are:

  1. What capacity is required by what function.
  2. Who needs what capacity (functions) currently, in the next 10 years, and for the long term.
  3. What would the cost of these new capacities be in comparison to what we have now?
  4. Where are the bottlenecks and can they be upgraded in stages?

Before directly addressing capacity requirements, what is often forgotten is that while computer hardware capacity has accelerated dramatically in the last 10 years, so has software. In particular, as a spin off from the investment in encryption, compression technology has advanced in leaps and bounds.

For example images, music and video no longer require the capacities they used to.

A 10 megapixel photo occupies 40MB as a bitmap image or 750kB as a Jpeg; a CD used to store 40 minutes of music in standard format, but can now store 1,000 mins as Mpeg; and a wide screen feature film used to require a DVD (4.7GB) but can now be stored on a CD (800MB) in AVI format.

Capacity required by function

So here are some of the functions people might require from broadband and their modern day band width requirements:

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Minimum requirements for audio conferencing

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About the Author

Jeff Hosking is qualified as Electrical Engineer with degrees in Economics and Business administration. He is presently working on major projects in heavy industry, with a focus on power generation, automation and control systems.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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