The government’s Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) programs will greatly improve broadband across the country, but over the nine year long process will create three classes of Internet citizens.
75% of households will eventually have access to ultra fast fibre, with an unlimited potential for speed and traffic utilization. Plans starting at 30mbps download and 10mbps upload (30/10mbps) and faster with 150 gigabytes per month (150GB/month) of traffic are on the market today, and users should reasonably expect to be able to download up to a terabyte of traffic a month at 100mbps as new plans come on the market.
22% will receive upgraded ADSL2+ with Fibre to the Node (FTTN), enabling speeds up to 24/2 mbps, depending on the length and the quality of the local copper loop. In Zone 4, the target area for the RBI, Median copper loop lengths for cabinetized customers are 1.8km. Measurements taken by Truenet indicate this distance will result in performance of between 5-10mbps – meeting the Government’s goal of 5mbps, but not approaching the theoretical maximum of 24mbps. With fibre backhaul to these upgraded cabinets, there is no technical barrier to traffic plans of a terabyte a month, as iiNet offer over their ADSL product in Australia.
The remaining 3% of New Zealand’s users will have access to 3G or satellite connections, enabling peak download speeds of 5/0.5mbps, but actual committed rates of only 0.045/0.045mbps. As the “last mile” of these connections is highly contended, traffic plans will be severely restricted compared to those available on fibre or ADSL2+. Vodafone’s RBI contract with the Crown indicates on-peak traffic plans will be limited to 10GB/month before overage charges are applied, while off-peak allowances will be significantly more generous.
The Digital Divide is set to open up tremendously as a result of the UFB and RBI programs. 97% of New Zealanders could soon be enjoying traffic caps orders of magnitude greater than those available in remote locations. The remaining 3% – often living in remote areas in order to work in primary industries such as meat, wool, & timber, can not and should not left behind.
I’m pleased to report that InternetNZ are taking the Digital Divide very seriously, and have partially funded Telco2 to study new radio technologies that could be used to boost connectivity to remote users. I look forward to providing information on these radio technologies – and other copper based technologies – to the greater community in order to bridge this Digital Divide.