There’s no doubting it’s election time with the ALP and the Coalition battling it out for votes. I’m happy the last couple of days has focused on a critical issue for Australia’s future – internet infrastructure or the NBN. This is the single biggest election issue that affects me personally. Being a heavy user of all things internet as well as running a technology website and improvement in connection speeds are of great interest.
Following the oppositions announcement of a hacked together last generation solution to the problem, they were basically shot down in flames. To add insult to injury, the futuristic promise of 1Gbps connection over Labor’s fibre NBN has arrived years ahead of schedule.
The NBN was supposed to make connections of 100Mbps available to 93% of Australians. The promise was that at some stage in the future (5-10 years) equipment in the home and exchanges could be upgraded to get even higher speeds. Well after “extensive testing” that technology is here already !
Senator Stephen Conroy made a slight miss-step today when asked if the price of 1Gbps connection would cost more, he said no. While it may not impact on the total $43 billion budget of the project, it will likely be more expensive to end users for the cost of the router, Conroy really should have admitted this, its similar to how 802.11N routers are currently prices higher than B/G routers.
This leads many people questioning what on earth you could do with all those internets. Practically speaking the 1 gig connection will likely attract a steep premium, but it’s still a great thing for those that can afford it.
Multiple HD video streams
Video quality on services like YouTube has steadily been increasing since its introduction around 5 years ago. First SD, then competitors forced them to offer 720, then 1080p videos. YouTube have taken it even further and added support for 4k video. That’s double the height and double the width of 1080, much higher than most displays today are capable of displaying.
At CES in January we’ve seen the announcement of multiple 4k compliant TV sets, so they are on the horizon, to add to that Japan are already testing broadcasts in 4k. Rather than use traditional TV broadcast to distribute 4k, IPTV may take its place. ‘Catch up’ TV is gaining traction with all the commercial channels and ABC all offering on-demand video content online. Why can’t this content be in HD as it was originally broadcast, rather than a lower quality flash stream.
Fast forward to 5 years from now when 60”+ 4k HDTVs are actually affordable and seriously internet connected. Running multiple 4k streams around the house would certainly use some bandwidth. Also remember that Blu-ray data rates are actually around 28Mpbs rather than the heavily compressed 2Mbps 1080i streams over-the-air broadcast currently offers. This means it may be possible for digital delivery to fully replace optical disc formats.
It’s long been the promise of science fiction that we’ll one day video conference to another location seamlessly through devices like our HDTV. We’ve seen the very beginning of this actually reaching production with the introduction of skype-enabled TV’s but more could be done. As screens become flatter and larger, at some point they may take part of, or indeed an entire wall. Video conferencing with high quality cameras and displays would enable you to feel as if your wall is actually a doorway into another world.
Depending on the terms and conditions your ISP slaps on your connection, this kind of speed may actually have a massive impact on the web hosting industry. Personally I have redundant storage of my important files, yet I’m forced to pay online hosts to do the same as home connections can’t support large traffic / bandwidth requirements.
With a 1Gbps connection, many small businesses and even home users would have the bandwidth required to support large volumes of traffic while avoiding the hosting fees we’re subjected to now. Imagine if you bought a Windows Home Server, installed the WordPress Add-In and you had your site online with as much storage as you wanted.
There’s obviously a bunch more applications that will only arise in the years to come, but I’d get ready for some very disruptive technologies delivered via the NBN. Also don’t forget the rest of the world is steaming ahead in ultra-fast broadband rollouts. Even Google in the US is rolling out 1Gbps in specific areas, while Hong Kong already has it and for really cheap.