FTTx kicked off by utilities & local councils
At last months FTTH Council Europe ‘s annual convention in Vienna, there was a palpable sense that the atmosphere had changed, generating more buzz than any event I’ve attended in the past year.

But the agents of change in Europe are not the incumbents, but the public utilities and municipal authorities, which have been busy creating an alternative blueprint for Europe in which a fibre-based, open-access next-generation network (NGN), equally available to all citizens and service providers, replaces the current model of vertically integrated or imperfectly unbundled networks and limited facilities-based competition.

The new players enjoy four key advantages over incumbents:

First, because they are built from the start as open-access networks in which the builders and operators have no interest, they lead to a far broader palette of services and more choice for consumers-

Second, builders can take full advantage of the very low operating costs that are now becoming possible. One of the most mature municipal networks in Europe – in Vasteras, Sweden – currently serves 50,000 ports with just four operations staff.

Third, utilities and municipalities are taking a long-term view of payback and return on investment – something that most incumbents can no longer do.

Also the good news from the conference was that there seems to be no shortage of investors lining up to take a share in these new fibre initiatives.

Fourth, but not least, local politicians are waking up to the central importance of high-bandwidth networks for their economies.

Internet economy companies such as Walt Disney indicated that they would be able to use whatever bandwidth they got.

Dutch broadband mission to Australia
It is 400 years ago this year that Willem Janszoon, skipper of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Duyfken, became the first documented European to come into contact with, and map, Australia, when he landed on the western portion of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, near the modern-day town of Weipa.

This historic event marks the beginning of Dutch relations with Australia.

Plenty of celebratory activities are taking place during 2006 – events with a cultural, social, diplomatic, sports and trade focus. Late last year, at a dinner at the Prince of Orange winery in Orange, I had a discussion on this topic with the former Dutch Ambassador to Australia Hans Sondaal. This led to my suggestion to my friend and colleague, Fred Kappetijn, in the Netherlands that we should try to include a ‘broadband’ theme in the celebrations. He made contact with the Dutch Ministry for Economic Development (EVD). This department has taken up the idea enthusiastically, and a serious effort is underway in the Netherlands as we speak to get a group of interested Dutch ICT people to participate in the official trade mission, which is planned for 1 – 8 April.

Acting Minister for Foreign Trade, Mrs.Ross-van Dorp, will lead the trade mission, which will coincide with an official visit to Australia by the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The Prime Minister, who is also the chairman of the Innovation Platform in the Netherlands, will give a lecture about innovation which also will address the impact and possibilities of broadband.

The Netherlands has the second-highest penetration of broadband in the world and is a leader in digital media developments (Premier League football is exclusively on broadband TV in the Netherlands). In Australia more than $6 billion will be invested over the next few years in broadband infrastructure (equally split between the government and Telstra). The Netherlands is also the leader in fibre-to-the-home deployment in Europe.

So obviously there are interests from both countries in each other’s markets.

At the moment we are concentrating on the Dutch component of the mission, as we need at least 5 – 10 top ICT people to participate. I would appreciate it if you could pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested in participating. Equally, if you, yourself, are interested, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Please contact me for more details. Participation in the trade mission includes a number of official meetings, with access to key political figures in Australia, the broadband Roundtable, match making, networking meetings, etc.

As soon as participant numbers have been organised we will work further on the Dutch-Australia Roundtable –planned between the 4th and 6th of April.

Paul Budde

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