Archive for May, 2001

HOW THE GOVERNMENT KILLED A NEW MEDIA INDUSTRY (AUSTRALIA) – MAY 2001

Tuesday, May 1st, 2001

Ever since its inception in 1996, we have consistently maintained that the government’s digital TV policy, which includes datacasting, is flawed.

Digital TV has very little to do with traditional TV – it is another access technology with a capacity for a full range of new media services. Notwithstanding this, the government heeded the advice of former ABA boss, Peter Webb, and provided the broadcasters, not only with free spectrum for digital TV (valued by us at around $800 million), but also with a 10-year monopoly on all services that could be developed around this technology.

Unfortunately, in 1996 few people understood the potential impact of this course of action, and the government did not encounter much opposition when, led by its Communications Minister, it introduced one of the most undemocratic media policies ever implemented.

Universal condemnation of the policy ensued. From the World Economic Forum down to the local industry it was seen as a device to protect the profits of media barons like Kerry Packer. The policy is basically a lockout under the guise of competition. You have to be a politician to come up with something like this! There is no evidence to indicate that the government had the interests of the country at heart.

At no stage did the free-to-air broadcasters seriously intend to implement an aggressive digital TV strategy. Their only objective was to protect their vested interests in commercial TV. Digital TV, which was originally based on High Definition TV (HDTV), would have required all the available spectrum to be set aside for digital TV, making it impossible for others to take part in the industry. With a 10-year monopoly, Australia’s richest man would get a further licence to print money and the rest of Australia would pay the price.

As an example, digital TV could offer TV users in rural and regional Australia a new platform for video-based interactive service, very much like the Internet. This would be a welcome alternative to the poor quality telephone lines that are now used to access the Internet. Furthermore, interactive TV and multi-channelling (different camera angles during sporting matches, simultaneous games on different channels, delayed news bulletins, etc) would all become available to TV viewers.

However the government completely ignored these opportunities and forged ahead with what has been described as the most complex and unworkable TV policy in the world. In the end it cut digital TV into segments and invented separate rules and regulations for each of these segments (datacasting, television, multichannelling). With every attempt to ‘fine-tune’ its policy the government dug itself deeper and deeper into the digital TV hole.

Nevertheless the Minister stubbornly persisted in talking up digital TV. As recently as early 2001, he issued a statement that he would increase competition in datacasting through his ‘fabulous’ licensing policy, in spite of the fact that the industry had clearly indicated that his regime offered little or no opportunities for viable datacasting services in Australia.

Finally, after a 4-year battle, the government had to admit defeat – a waste of four years for Australians eager to participate in the global developments of the information highways and for an industry robbed of business opportunities to develop Australian-based products and services.

If the government had been serious about its policy, it would have recognised that the only way to protect competition is to allow it in the first place. The only way out of the mess is a total reversal of the policy; however there appears to be very little chance of this. The criticism that the government has received from all quarters has made little or no impact. Convinced that their datacasting policy was not going to be an election issue, they felt secure in continuing to protect the interests of a handful of very rich and powerful individuals.

It is unlikely that the current government will initiate a total overhaul of its digital TV policy. Unfortunately, a new government will probably feel compelled to launch an investigation, which means it could be 2003 before any action is taken. This, of course, is exactly what the broadcasters would like to see – more delay.

An unhappy state of affairs for Australians and for Australian media policies.

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SEASONED INTERNET USERS UP TO 67% – MAY 2001

Tuesday, May 1st, 2001

One of the key drivers behind broadband is always-on high-speed Internet access. We have argued that this market will follow the more seasoned Internet subscribers. A large number of these Internet users have established their usage patterns regarding e-mails and information; they know what they want and what they want to do. This category of seasoned users is frustrated with the dial-up service and is a prime target market for broadband.

Internet research firm, Red Sheriff, reported that as of February 2001, 67% of adults (ages 16 and over) in Australia have used the Internet regularly for about two years. The report also found that in February, 65% of adults in Australia have used the Internet at least once, and 83% used the Internet in the week prior to the survey.

Australian adults who have used the Internet at least once – 2001-2003

February % of adults

2000 50%

2001 65%

2003 69%-79%

(Source: Red Sheriff, 2001)

The survey found that the main reason people are not going online is because accessibility is still lacking – 33% say they do not have access to a personal computer and 10% say they do not have access to the Internet.

Barriers to Internet usage in Australia – February 2001

Barriers % of adults

No access to PC 33%

No access to the Internet 10%

Expense 6%

(Source: Red Sheriff, 2001)

Internet users in Australia cited e-mail and searching for product information as the two most popular online activities in February 2001. The following list is a breakdown of the activities users cited, according to the percent involved in that activity:

– E-mail (87%);

– Searching for product information (63%);

– Travel guides and services (53%);

– News, sports or weather updates (52%).

The results also showed that online shopping in Australia has quadrupled over the past five years — from 8% of users in 1997 to 32% in 2001.

For comparison, The eAsia Report presents findings from Media Metrix saying that 80% of internet users in Australia were age 18 and over in 2000.

Internet users in Australia by age – 2000

Age %

2 to 11 6%

12 to 17 14%

16 and over 80%

(Source: Media Metrix, 2000)

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AAPT HAS NOW 339 BUILDINGS FIBRED – MAY 2001

Tuesday, May 1st, 2001

By mid 2001, the company had fibred a total of 339 buildings in the CBD areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Adelaide, directly connecting customers to AAPT’s network via a high-speed link.

Services over this fibre network are most suited to businesses with very high bandwidth, high-speed network requirements and stringent service level agreements, such as that required by corporate head offices.

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AAPT SPEEDNET – MAY 2001

Tuesday, May 1st, 2001

In May 2001 the company launched of its Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service, called AAPT Speednet, an expansion of its existing fixed wireless and fibre-optic networks.

Using a combination of technologies including DSL, Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS), fibre and microwave, broadband services were, at the launch, available to more than 220,000 businesses in over 30 CBD, metropolitan and regional business locations across Australia.

The service is available throughout certain metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth where AAPT has rolled out 22 Cisco-powered DSL exchanges.

AAPT Speednet can be purchased with a range of Internet service options such as e-mail, Web hosting, domain name service and Internet security. Four different AAPT Speednet service plans are available, with download speeds ranging from 256Kb/s to 1.5Mb/s. These Internet products are provided in conjunction with connect.com.au.

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AAPT FINALLY LAUNCHED LMDS – MAY 2001

Tuesday, May 1st, 2001

After many delays AAPT finally launched their LMDS network. By mid 2001 its reach covered certain CBD and broader metropolitan business areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, as well as Geelong in Victoria.

Using Ericsson’s MINI-LINK BAS equipment, one of the most advanced LMDS solutions commercially available, AAPT’s expanded LMDS network provides direct connectivity and services such as 2Mb/s data, voice and high-speed Internet to business and government customers requiring high-bandwidth access.

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