Monday, August 30, 2010

Canada - Wind Mobile attracts 100,000 customers in six months

[teleclick] Canadian wireless startup, Wind Mobile, has attracted over 100,000 subscribers in its first six months of operations, luring smartphone users away from established rivals Rogers, Bell, and Telus.

“We’re pummeling them,” boasted Wind chairman, Anthony Lacavera, in an interview. “We added subscribers in our coverage area at twice the speed of incumbents in the same time frame.”

Wind offers a number of competitively-priced flat rate voice and data plans major Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. The company is currently offering a $150 account credit to Rogers, Bell, and Telus customers who make the switch.

Wind’s goal is to expand into additional markets and attract 1.5 million customers in its first three years, according to Lacavera.

Wind Mobile Attracts 100,000 Customers in Six Months

USA - A judge has required a divorced to provide access to children via Skype video-conferencing

[] A state judge in Suffolk County has ordered a mother to make her two children available for Skype online video conferencing with their father as a condition of her move to Florida.

The decision marks the first reported New York case in which a judge has ordered a relocating parent to facilitate Skyping -- i.e., the use of Skype conferencing software -- between her children and her ex-spouse as a condition of her move, according to a Westlaw search.

"The Petitioner, at her own cost and expense, will see to it, prior to re-location, that the Respondent, as well as the children, are provided the appropriate internet access via a Skype device which allows a real time broadcast of communications between the Respondent and his children," Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo wrote in Baker v. Baker, 29610-2007.

The parties, James and Debra Baker, were married in 2000 and divorced in 2008. They have a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.

The Bakers' marital home is in foreclosure and Ms. Baker, a bookkeeper, has been unemployed since she was laid off in December. Mr. Baker works for a construction company and has a take-home salary of $600 per month.

Earlier this year, Ms. Baker asked the court for permission to move to Venice Beach, Fla., to live with her parents and seek full-time employment.

Mr. Baker, a recovering alcoholic who recently underwent surgery for bladder cancer, opposed the move.

Garguilo held a two-day hearing in July.

"The Respondent pled with the Court not to take his children away as he loves them dearly and is now sufficiently rehabilitated to become a permanent presence in their lives," Garguilo wrote.

In a decision last week, the judge granted the wife's petition and, in an apparent first for New York, ordered her to use Skype.

"Common sense, logic and a realistic view of life on Long Island clearly indicate that the Petitioner and children cannot maintain a residence, heat, clothe themselves, provide for transportation and enjoy only the basic necessities on the monies that are currently available," the judge wrote. "The relocation is conditional. [T]he Petitioner will make the children available three times per week for not less than one hour per connection to communicate via Skype with their father."

Jennifer H. Goody of Wand, Powers & Goody in Huntington represented Ms. Baker.

Goody said Ms. Baker was not opposed to the Skype condition.

"That was something the judge came up with himself to foster the relationship," Goody said. "I think the judge was trying to strike a balance to make sure the children have a relationship with their father."

Solo-practitioner Bruce P. Vetri of Bayport represented Mr. Baker. Vetri did not return a call for comment.

Ex-Wife Ordered to Provide Skype Access for Husband, Kids

Mobile VOIP - US to account for 135 billion mVoIP minutes in 2015

[juniper research] The number of mobile VoIP minutes carried annually on 3G and 4G networks will rise from 15 billion minutes in 2010 to 470.6 billion by 2015, finds a new report from Juniper Research.

Mobile VoIP traffic will see steady rises in all regions over the forecast period, but particularly in developed markets, due to the increasing ubiquity of 3G networks.

“There are several flavours of mobile VoIP,” says Anthony Cox, Senior Analyst at Juniper Research, noting that operators fear losing traffic to WiFi networks most: “WiFi mobile VoIP is potentially the most damaging of all VoIP traffic as it bypasses the mobile networks altogether,” he says. “We forecast that mobile VoIP over WiFi will cost operators $5 billion globally by 2015,” says Cox.

Other options for mobile VoIP carriage are via carrier alliances with mobile VoIP providers, or though an app downloaded to the handset or smartphone.

Further findings include:
• Competitive and regulatory pressure will mean that traditional operators in developed markets will increasingly “bury the hatchet” and forge partnerships with VoIP providers.
• Operator revenues from circuit switched voice will continue to diminish over the next five years, though the rate of decline will not accelerate.
• The market opportunity for high definition voice and advertising-based mobile voice services will be limited for the foreseeable future.

That Mobile VoIP is reaching the top of the agenda for mobile operators is borne out by the recent launch of Skype over 3G networks and its deal earlier this year with US operator Verizon. Operator sentiment varies however: “Even though a major operator, 3UK, touts the benefits of mobile VoIP, it will take some time for many operators, particularly in emerging markets, to accept it, since it represents loss of control over their own networks,” says Cox.

Annual Mobile VoIP Minutes to Double Each Year, Reaching 470.6bn by 2015, According to Juniper Research

Mobile TV - Wi-Fi to bring mobile TV to the masses with revenues reaching USD 7 billion by 2015

[juniperresearch] Technology will ease 3G network congestion but streamed services will still need further capacity relief as support for dedicated mobile broadcast networks fades

Hampshire, UK – 6th July 2010: A new report published today by Juniper Research has found that a surge in applications which can take advantage of the increasing availability of free WiFi services are set to boost a mobile TV industry with anticipated revenues of nearly $7 billion by 2015.

According to the report, mobile TV traffic over WiFi is expected to increase by 25x over the 2010-2015 period as streamed service penetration and usage levels – also fuelled by consumer smartphone adoption – rise sharply. However, the report notes that despite the capacity relief that WiFi offers to cellular networks, greater mobile TV usage will still place the 3G and 3.5G networks under stress.

As report author Dr Windsor Holden pointed out, "Cellular networks are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver high quality mobile TV services at times of peak usage: thus, the World Cup has posed particular problems with large spikes in viewing figures. WiFi can ameliorate this in the short term, but this is only a partial remedy."

The report suggests that while the deployment of LTE networks should reduce congestion, the use of unpaired spectrum – as in the forthcoming IMB trials by Vodafone, Orange and O2 – might be an alternative or complementary solution.

However, Juniper is less sanguine about the prospects for dedicated mobile broadcast technologies such as DVB-H, citing the availability of handsets capable of receiving analogue or digital terrestrial signals, the economic downturn and changing consumer viewing habits among the reasons why such networks are widely perceived as being financially unviable.

WiFi to bring mobile TV to the masses with revenues reaching $7bn by 2015, Juniper’s Latest Research finds

Mobile - App store downloads to reach 25 billion by 2015

[juniper research] As network operators and vendors increasingly deploy their own dedicated app stores, a new Juniper Research report has found that the annual number of consumer-oriented handset downloads is expected to rise from less than 2.6 billion in 2009 to more than 25 billion in 2015.

According to the Mobile App Stores report, players across the mobile value chain are seeking to emulate Apple’s success with the App Store by launching own-brand storefronts, such as ‘Mobile Market’ from China Unicom, ‘Airtel App Central’ from Bharti and the ‘Apps & Games Shop’ on Vodafone 360. Furthermore, the transition to an app-centric environment has also benefited more established storefronts such as GetJar, which passed 1 billion downloads earlier this month.

However, the Juniper report cautioned that players seeking to launch app stores would need to demonstrate sufficient scale to be able to induce developers to provide them with unique content. As report author Dr Windsor Holden observed, “Apple has been able to achieve several billion downloads from a comparatively small handset base because customers are buying the iPhone for the apps. That’s not been the case with other handsets. So even if you have a subscriber base of tens of millions, your addressable market is a fraction of that – and spread across a variety of operating systems and handsets”.

The report also noted that freemium was becoming the prevalent business model, with publishers increasingly offering applications free at point of sale and subsequently monetising them via in-app billing of subscription-based services, upgrades to premium content or micropayments for virtual items.

Mobile App Store Downloads to Reach 25 billion by 2015, Juniper Report finds

Mobile TV - Dedicated networks face uncertain future, reaching 10 milllion paying customers compated to 190 millions paying on mobile networks by 2013

[juniper research] A new study has found that disappointing adoption levels of existing mobile TV services, allied to competition both from streamed mobile services facilitated by the growing prevalence of WiFi and from mobile reception of free-to-air terrestrial networks, has lead to growing disillusionment within the industry.

The Juniper Research report found that the number of paying subscribers to networks based on standards such as DVB-H, DMB, CMMB and MediaFLO were not expected to exceed 10 million globally until 2013 at the earliest – by which time more than 180 million mobile customers will be subscribing to 3G/4G/WiFi enabled mobile TV services.

According to Mobile TV report author Dr Windsor Holden, Qualcomm's recent announcement that it is seeking to sell mobile TV subsidiary MediaFLO is understandable: "MediaFLO has been hamstrung by various factors, many of which have been outside its control. The delay in analogue switch off prevented it from gaining national coverage; its partners set the service price at too high a level which put off potential customers. When you factor in likely free to air competition over ATSC-M/H in the medium term, then clearly MediaFLO faces a difficult future in the US."

However, the Juniper Report argues that MediaFLO may have better long-term prospects in Asian markets such as Japan and Taiwan, and that its networks – and those of other mobile broadcast service providers – may be better served focusing on delivering a wide range of data services rather than as acting as pure mobile TV distributors. It also identifies a further revenue stream for mobile TV delivered to in-vehicle entertainment systems.

Dedicated Mobile TV Networks Face Uncertain Future, Reaching only 5% of 190m paid mobile TV Users by 2013, Juniper Report finds

Europe - Report published on the Internet of Things Europe 2010 conference report

[ec] Vice President and EU Commissioner for the European Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes kicked off this two day conference in Brussels. .... She stated that the Internet of Things, the next wave of internet enabled connectivity, is not simply a technical innovation but a broad process in the heart of our society...

Internet of Things Europe 2010 conference report

Seychelles - Bharti Airtel has acquired Telecom Seychelles

[daily nation] Zain Kenya's new owners, Bharti Airtel, is determined to expand their footprint in Africa by acquiring Telecom Seychelles Ltd at a cost of Sh4.9 billion.

This means the Indian telecommunications firm is now in 16 African countries following its acquisition of Zain Africa's 15 operations, including Zain Kenya, for which the deal was closed in June for Sh856 billion.

Mr Manoj Kohli, CEO (International) & Joint managing director, Bharti Airtel, said, "We are delighted at the addition of Seychelles to our Africa portfolio. These operations will benefit further by leveraging the efficiencies of scale of our African operations."

When asked whether Bharti Airtel had presence in Seychelles, a company spokesperson clarified that the company never had any stake in Telecom Seychelles and it was only using its brand name. Now Bharti Airtel will acquire all stake from its promoters to make it part of African operations.

Telecom Seychelles began operations in 1998 by launching mobile services. Today, it offers 3G mobile and integrated wireline services across the island nation under the Airtel brand and has over 57 per cent share of the mobile market. Bharti Airtel had over 183 million customers across its operations at the end of June 2010.

Bharti plans replicate its minute factory model combined with a low-cost structure in Africa. It will work on infrastructure sharing and forge contracts on a network utilisation-based model, much like it does in India to improve productivity at its Africa operations.

The company, facing tough competition in a crowded home market, is betting on opportunities in Africa where the mobile penetration level at 32 per cent is less than India's 50 per cent and there are fewer competitors. The Average Revenue Per User in the country remains low.

In India, subscribers on average use 500 calling minutes monthly while Kenya lays claim to 40 minutes. In addition to voice services, Airtel provides broadband internet and digital television in its home market of India. The acquisition of Zain was Bharti Airtel's third attempt to enter the largely untapped African market after twice failing in merger talks with South African telecom major MTN.

The firm recently appointed Ogilvy Africa BV to engineer its rebranding. It expects to launch its own brand in the 15 countries by end of October, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bharti Airtel Acquires Telecom Seychelles

USA - Survey shows 52% oppose and only 40% support the National Broadband Plan

[bbc] A majority of Americans believe the government's plan to deliver a high speed internet connection to every citizen by 2020 is either not important or should not be embarked upon.

The Pew Internet Project said 52% of survey respondents felt that way while 40% felt the issue was a top priority.

The surprise outcome comes amid a fierce debate about broadband.

"We are in economic hard times and any government spending is a hard sell," said report author Aaron Smith.

"The recession could be behind this sentiment that other issues are more important. It could also be that many non-users are nervous about a government promoting technology that they don't use, are unsure of and see as not really offering much of a clear benefit to them," Mr Smith told BBC News.

US broadband plan 'not a priority' finds survey

Fraud - A group made calls to foreign premium rate numbers requiring the operator to pay, but not paying their own bills

[bbc] Nine people have been arrested over a global scam to use fraudulently bought mobiles to call premium phone numbers.

City of London Police seized iPhones, mobiles, sim and bank cards and passports in raids in London, Southend, Walsall, Birmingham and Middlesbrough.

The gang set up premium lines based overseas and used sim cards from the iPhones and other devices to call them, leaving providers to settle huge bills.

Phone company O2 called in the police after losing £1.2m in July alone.

Police unravelled the scam following a month-long investigation after O2 noticed "massive bills". As the premium numbers were based overseas O2 was bound to settle the bill before approaching their customers for payment.

The gang was also suspected of setting up front companies to launder the profits from the premium phone numbers, police said.

Nine arrests in iPhone premium rate number scam

Roaming - SingTel is planning a simplified roaming charge for partner companies in the region

[itp] Singaporean operator SingTel is planning to launch a single-rate mobile roaming network incorporating at least eight of the mobile operations that it has investments in, including Abu Dhabi Group-backed Warid Telecom, India's Bharti Aitel, and Globe Telecom in the Philippines.

Muneer Farooqui, CEO, Warid Telecom, told CommsMEA that SingTel and its partners plan to launch the single-rate roaming network by early 2011.

"We call it 'one network, one roaming charge'. We are working on it by the end of the year, at least amongst the eight operations of Singtel," Farooqui said.

"Hopefully it will be in the market by the turn of the year. It would be a great advantage for these operations, making it a global operation across borders," he added.

SingTel, which owns a 30% stake in Warid Telecom, also has significant stakes in operators including Telkomsel in Indonesia, Globe Telekom in the Philippines, PBTL in Bangladesh, and AIS in Thailand.

SingTel also operates a service called Bridge Alliance, which allows members to access a single data roaming rate in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and India.

SingTel plans one-rate roaming network

India - Airtel customer can roam free of surcharges during the Singapore Formula 1 race

[cellbharat] Singapore Formula 1 race is round the corner (Sep 25-29 2008). Airtel has collaborated with SingTel – the official partner for the races. Through this collaboration Airtel offers calls on roaming for free of charge. Offer is aplicable for both pre-aid and post-paid subscribers.

If you are the one in Singapore to circumvent Formula 1, then choose Singtel network manually in the handsets while over there to avail this offer. The normal roaming charges are Rs 52 pm for postaid and Rs 50 for prepaid Airtel subscribers travelling to Singapore.

Airtel, SingTel offers Free Roaming in Singapore

Singapore - Consultation by Govt on increasing fines for breaches of licence conditions

[pcworld] Singapore's Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) has proposed changes to a law governing telecommunications operators that would raise penalties for companies that violate conditions of their licenses.

The changes being proposed by MICA aim to bring Singapore's Telecommunications Act up to date with changes in the telecommunications industry. "Telecom networks have increased in importance as consumers rely on these networks for all forms of communication services, including voice, data, video, Internet access and even television services," the ministry said in a consultation paper describing the proposed changes.

Among the biggest proposed changes are higher penalties for operators that violate conditions of their license or engage in anti-competitive conduct. The current maximum penalty of S$1 million would be raised to 10 percent of the company's annual revenue for the licensed service or S$1 million, whichever is higher. In addition, MICA's proposal would give the Infocommunications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the body that oversees the telecom sector, the ability to suspend or cancel the licenses of companies that don't pay fines on time.

In addition, the proposed changes would create a special administration order that allows the minister of information, communications and the arts to takeover a licensee and its operations under certain conditions, such as when an operator is no longer "commercially able" to offer licensed services.

"This could arise for instance where the network is relied upon for the provision of important telecom services and where there are no reasonable substitutes to the network, or in the case of an extensive network serving a large subscriber base whereby the cessation of service would cause major disturbance and inconvenience to the public and the economy," the consultation paper said, seeking local feedback on the proposed changes.

Singapore Aims to Raise Penalties for Telcos
See also MICA Consultation document

Australia - One of the key independents wants NBN roll-out to continue

[zdnet] Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has placed the completion of the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Tasmania as one of his top priorities, in a list delivered ahead of meetings with both Labor Leader Julia Gillard and Liberal Leader Tony Abbott this week.

The new member for the Tasmanian seat of Denison included the completion of the NBN in Tasmania at the end of 2012 in a list of 20 items he believes are vital for the next government. Wilkie denies they're demands, but rather his "priorities". The negotiations over which major party will form a minority government with Wilkie, Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MPs Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter continue in Canberra today.

Oakeshott and Windsor have previously indicated that high-speed broadband was a priority for their electorates. Katter has indicated that he wants whatever is best for his electorate. The Greens has pledged support for the NBN.

However, if Wilkie does manage to negotiate the completion of the Tasmanian portion of the NBN with a Coalition government, which has vowed to stop the network roll-out, the isolated Tasmanian section might not be financially viable, according to comments Communications Minister Stephen Conroy made at a recent Australian Information Industry Association lunch. Conroy warned that due to the cross-subsidisation of the NBN across the country, it would be financially difficult for Tasmanian towns to remain hooked up to the service on their own.

As part of their negotiations, Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter will receive full briefings on the cost of the NBN and the Coalition's alternative broadband policy. Abbott has not ruled out any compromises on policy, stating he would be "pragmatic" in his negotiations with the independents, while Gillard has promised the kingmakers a meeting with NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley.

NBN Co has ceased hiring new employees while the negotiations continue.

Tassie NBN makes Wilkie wish list

Australia - Broadband now seen as being water and electricity an essential service

[itwire] Should we now consider Broadband a necessity of life, a utility in the same way we consider water, electricity and gas? According to a newly released poll, the answer is a resounding yes.

It has long been the argument of NBN advocates that ubiquitous fast broadband can no longer be consider a luxury and is a must have if Australia is going to keep pace with our competitors in global markets. This analysis also has its critics, who argue that while improvements in speed and reach may indeed be necessary, the big bang approach of NBN is not the answer.

However, there does at least seem to be universal agreement across the political spectrum that broadband in some shape or form is without question an important part of the national infrastructure. How important is another question.

Broadband comparison website Compare Broadband recently held a poll asking site visitors, "Do you think broadband is as necessary as utilities like gas, water and electricity?" A 78% majority of the 371 respondents said "Yes", while only 22% said "No", indicating a broadband connection is now an essential part of Australians' lives.

Cynics will undoubtedly argue that a poll addressing this question to a small sample of committed broadband users on a site like Compare Broadband is meaningless. However, it is may be worth bearing in mind that across Australia broadband connectivity in some shape or form is fast becoming as common as telephony.

Broadband Comparison management claims the poll reflects how important broadband has become to Australia's future - even the outcome of the Australian Federal election may now rest on broadband, as the independent candidates who may have the final say on the next government have put rural broadband access high on their list of priorities.

Recently on ABC radio, independent candidates Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor spoke about the urgent need for broadband in the bush. Mr Oakeshott said, “It is an issue that's got to be delivered by government and it has got a public good element to it.” Mr Windsor added, “I don't think we fully comprehend what that (broadband) means in terms of the delivery of health and educational services.”

Compare Broadband’s General Manager, Scott Kennedy, said: "Would consumers choose a broadband connection over having water, gas or electricity? I don’t think so! However, the response to the poll clearly shows the importance of a broadband connection to everyday Australians. A digital life is upon us and it would seem that most could not live without it."

Broadband now a utility like power and water?

Australia - Need to resolve disputes over NBN in creating a new government

[abc] In any case, there's really only one election policy that needs to survive the negotiations with independents: the NBN. And that was only part of the election because the Opposition promised to cancel it; like all good reforms, the NBN was never voted for.

No other policy stands out as particularly crucial. Both sides issued a blizzard of announcements during the campaign designed to appeal to marginal electorates or specific interest groups. Many of these were perfectly good ideas, but if they hit the bin as a result of this week's discussions, the nation won't suffer.

Election policies are merely a product of Australia's marketing-based two-party political system.

Two-speed economy brings a two-speed polity

Hong Kong - Regulator has introduced measures to reduce the surge in "bill shock" arising from smartphone usage

[ofta] The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) today (10 August 2010) published on its website measures that have been implemented by individual mobile operators to prevent mobile 'bill shock'.

These measures include allowing customers to opt-out of individual services; setting a charge ceiling; setting a usage cap for all kinds of usage-based mobile services; and alerting customers through short messages as their pre-determined usage threshold is reached.

" 'Bill shock' usually refers to the shock customers experience when they receive unexpectedly high mobile bill charges. Alongside with the increasing popularity of smart phones and advance mobile devices, there has been an upsurge in the number of bill shock complaints related to mobile data services," a spokesperson of OFTA said.

In the first half of this year, OFTA has received a total of 535 complaints relating to mobile data services (as compared with 337 cases in the whole of 2009). Billing disputes accounted for 65% of these complaints. In some cases, the bill shock was caused by unintentional or inadvertent use of mobile data services.

"It is expected that mobile bill shock would become the single most important contributor to the overall increase in the number of consumer complaints received by OFTA in the whole of 2010," forecast the spokesperson.

"Concerned with the surging number of complaints, OFTA has urged all mobile operators to adopt measures to help address the problem. We are encouraged to note that not only have majority of the mobile operators responded positively to OFTA's appeal, in implementing in the past weeks a combination of our proposed measures to prevent bill shock, they have also undertaken to continue to enhance their initiatives. There is indeed room for enhancement for individual operator. We will continue our efforts in assisting mobile operators to improve their existing measures and introduce new measures to prevent bill shock," continued the spokesperson.

"To enhance consumer knowledge and increase the transparency of mobile market information, so as to assist consumers in making more informed decisions on services that best suit their needs, we will start publishing, as from August 2010 onwards, on our website measures implemented by each mobile operator to address mobile bill shock. We will update the information periodically upon advice from operators on enhanced/new initiatives they have taken on board," the spokesperson said.

The measures which individual mobile operators have put in place to prevent bill shock can be downloaded from OFTA's webpage:

In parallel, OFTA will continue to organise consumer education activities including seminars and publish consumer alerts/advices on magazines and newspapers to enhance consumer awareness and knowledge of different aspects of the mobile services.

Publication of Measures Implemented by Mobile Operators to Prevent Mobile Bill Shock

Friday, August 27, 2010

Roaming - One-rate-roaming in the Caribbean from Lime (C&W)

[jamaicaobserver] Telecoms service provider LIME will at the beginning of next month allow regional mobile customers to pay one standard roaming rate for all Intra-Caribbean calls made and received.

The firm in a press release yesterday said that the product, One-Rate-Roaming, will allow LIME customers to be billed at the same roaming rate regardless of which LIME market they visit and applies to LIME customers while roaming in any of following markets:

o Anguilla
o Antigua & Barbuda
o Barbados
o British Virgin Islands (BVI)
o Cayman Islands
o Dominica
o Grenada
o Jamaica
o Montserrat
o St. Kitts & Nevis
o St. Lucia
o St. Vincent & the Grenadines
o Turks & Caicos
o Trinidad & Tobago

"With One Rate Roaming calls are billed at one flat rate, and text messages and Data are charged at the local rates. Blackberry customers pay no additional charges when they're roaming in the 13 LIME markets and in Trinidad & Tobago," said the release. "One Rate Roaming, which is available to both postpaid and prepaid customers in all LIME markets, is simple to access and makes it very easy for customers to calculate their roaming charges on their monthly bills."

The firm added that as a special introductory offer, all customers will enjoy free incoming calls until November 30, 2010.

LIME introduces One-Rate-Roaming across region

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Zealand - Rural farmers are unimpressed by Govt's broadband initiative

[tvnz] The government's extension of the tender deadline for its $300 million rural broadband initiative so that regional infrastructure companies can partner with national ones on bids has failed to impress farmers who want speeds 10 times faster than currently proposed.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday a significant number of high quality proposals had been received but he wants national bidders, so has extended the bidding until November 12.

"With this approach I am confident we will achieve our target of 80% of rural households and businesses having access to broadband services of 5Mbps or better and the remaining 20% on speeds of 1Mbps within the six-year period," Joyce said.

(Megabits or millions of bits per second is a measure of bandwidth - the average connecton speed in NZ is reported to be 2.9Mbps, with 7.7 percent of connections faster than 5Mbps).

But lobbyist Federated Farmers said the question now before rural New Zealand was: "Are you happy with a second rate service?"

Federated Farmers telecommunications spokesman Donald Aubrey said the current approach will mean 860,000 people in "rural" New Zealand may eventually have the broadband speeds that consumers in Wellington now have, while 215,000 "rural" Kiwis may end up with just a fifth of that speed.

"The 1.07 million Kiwis classed as 'rural' don't wish to have what Wellington had, but to exceed current Government aspirations by seeking what Wellington will have," Aubrey said. "The Government is not ambitious enough".

Ultrafast broadband from the farm was needed to give rural community the same social, education and medical advances that would be available in the cities.

"Broadband enhances social connectedness while crushing the tyranny of distance," said Aubrey.

Agriculture, tourism and other services in rural areas produced two-thirds of export revenues, and providing adequate communications in those areas could revolutionise the supply chain and close the gap between farmers and consumers in shops.

"Broadband is the next big enabler for enhanced productivity and production," said Mr Aubrey, who said the proposed speeds of up to 5Mbps did not allow for streaming 3D images and telemetry, such as to and from veterinary surgeons.

"Sony Pictures recently estimated speeds of 50-55Mbps were required for 3D with full high definition".

"These speeds are possible locally ... the government needs to take a longer term view," said Aubrey.

"One million Kiwis want to enjoy the same services and opportunities as our urban mates."

Broadband initiative fails to impress farmers

Australia - Independent MP condemsn opposition plans for broadband

[arn] Independent politician, Bob Katter, has arrived in Canberra for talks with the major parties and described the Opposition’s broadband plan as having ‘too much private ownership’.

With Parliament currently hung and the cooperation of independents like Katter needed to form Government, both major parties are scrambling to tout their benefits. Katter and the two other independent MPs have previously cited rural and regional broadband as a key issue.

When asked about what he thought of Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s broadband plan, Katter said he had not looked at it in great detail.

“It seems to me that it’s got an awful lot of private ownership associated with it and you can’t go down that path,” he said. “Most certainly a privatised system is not where I’m going to go.

“Telstra’s privatisation was diabolical for Australia and in fact every privatisation has been diabolical for rural Australia. Clearly you can sustain those services in the cities and you can’t in the country.”

Conversely, Katter said he was being told the Government’s National Broadband Network plan was a good idea and that it was good for Australia.

Katter: Abbott’s broadband plan has too much private ownership

UK - Internet use compared favourably with leading economies

[cable] The UK compares favourably to some of the biggest digital economies in the world in terms of internet access, according to Race Online 2012.
Access to broadband in the UK compares favourably to some of the world's most developed digital economies.

Internet usage in this country is slightly ahead of the US and just behind Sweden, according to head of policy at campaign group Race Online 2012 Graham Walker.

He described Britons as "the most sophisticated internet users in Europe", pointing out that more than half of all UK consumers with home or business broadband access have bought or sold goods and services online.

Furthermore, there are more Facebook users in this country than in any other nation in the world apart from the US, Mr Walker explained.

The expert added: "50 per cent of all travel is now booked online, [which is] worth more than £17 billion a year."

Earlier this month, broadband provider BT pledged to increase the speed of its network at sites around the country, with more than 140,000 homes and businesses in the north-west among those that will benefit.

UK broadband use ahead of the US, says expert

Australia - Without the NBN Cloud computing will be impossible

[crn] Cloud distie InfraServe says poor network leads to vicious cycle.

Cloud computing without a decent network is like owning a Formula One car and not having a decent track to drive on.

It is the next major disruptive information technology and will be as revolutionary as the PC.

We see the demand first hand at InfraServe, especially from SMEs that have overcome their security phobia or the perception that they don't know where their data lives.

The biggest question our resellers ask is "how fast can my customer access their data?"

It's a question that we can't answer beyond providing them the right level of computing resources for their virtual server, desktop or cloud storage.

It's like asking a Formula One mechanic "how fast can my car go over a dirt track?" His answer I am sure would be "Regardless of how well set up it is, not very fast!"

Although we source the best cloud services from the best providers we can't provide the user with a service to allow them to get the best out of the cloud without a decent network in place such as the NBN. Reputable cloud vendors won't invest in Australia because they will be handicapped by our poor network.

Consumers don't want cloud services because it is too slow and vendors won't build cloud services, because it can't be delivered well.

This severely hampers companies such as ours and the progression of Australia into the cloud. This will cause Australia to become a less attractive place for migration and business investment.

Just as the internet opened vast opportunities and brought the world closer we now need to build a decent network to stay ahead.

Opinion: No cloud without NBN

Australia - Tasmanian Premier says the future of the economy rests on NBN

[abc] Tasmania's Premier David Bartlett says the future of the state's economy relies on Labor's National Broadband Network.

The Government has released its Innovation Strategy which is based on the NBN that would be scrapped under a Federal Coaltion government.

Mr Bartlett says that would be a tragedy for Tasmania.

"If Tony Abbott does become the next Prime Minister of Australia I will be getting on the plane to Canberra as soon as possible," he said.

"I'll be dealing with whoever is Prime Minister to ensure they understand the importance of the National Broadband Network to Tasmanian jobs right now and to Tasmania's future economy over the coming decades," he said.

Opposition Innovation spokesman Michael Ferguson says the strategy is nearly three months late and is just 'more hot air' from the Government.

Tasmania's future rests on NBN: Bartlett

Australia - Independent MP has questioned the total cost of the NBN at AUD 43 billion

[the australian] INDEPENDENT MP Tony Windsor has questioned the $43 billion National Broadband Network price tag, describing it as a "fictitious number".

Mr Windsor is one of three country MPs at the centre of power-sharing negotiations, including Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, who want access to Treasury secretary Ken Henry and Finance department secretary David Tune as they prepare a "roadmap" before entering into talks with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

They've issued a "call for information'' on seven key areas, including access to the costings on all election commitments. As a result Labor could finally be forced to reveal how the $43bn figure was derived.

Mr Windsor described the request as "a test to the parties in terms of their promises going into the election" and questioned the veracity of the NBN funds.

"I'll give you an instance - broadband. This $43bn figure that's bandied about. I haven't seen the real trail that ends up to that number and in fact I think that's a fictitious number ... we want to find out what the real one is and there should be a trail that leads us to that," Mr Windsor told reporters at the National Press Club this afternoon.

He was flanked by the two federal independents and newly elected Greens MP Adam Bandt.

The NBN is set to be the largest ever infrastructure project undertaken in Australia but the government has never provided a cost-benefit analysis to support the ambitious project.

In fact Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has repeatedly said there was no need for such a study.

Senator Conroy last reiterated that stance to reporters on August 10 at the National Press Club, Canberra.

"Telstra made it very clear that they could find no business case beyond five capital cities and north and south of Sydney.

"So the Gillard government has decided we're going to do it. We're not going to wait another 12 months doing a cost-benefit analysis.

"We are leading the world in leading Australians to the 21st century. We're not hiding it, we're making it clear that this is a government investment," Senator Conroy said then.

Taxpayers will provide $27bn to fund the NBN with the remainder coming from private equity.

The Coalition will scrap the fibre-based NBN and replace it with a $6bn version using a mix of technologies including HFC and wireless.
The Greens publicly back the project but don't want the network privatised in years to come.

"The NBN should go ahead, with priority for communities in regional areas, and it should absolutely stay in public hands so that we don't see another repeat of the debacle that followed the privatisation of Telstra," Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said last month.

"The opposition's wrecking tactics in the telco sector have gone far enough with the in-principle agreement signed between Telstra and the Commonwealth Tony Abbott no longer has a constituency for blocking, delaying and avoiding reforms," Senator Ludlam said.

Labor and the Greens want Telstra to separate its wholesale and retail operations - a proposal the opposition has railed against.

Earlier today, the three independents outlined the process they would undertake before commencing talks with Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott.

"We need to establish where the budget bottom line is ... in terms of the promises made by the parties," Mr Windsor said.

"What we are actually talking about here is in terms of the promises that were made during the election campaign by both sides. We need a starting point of the finances of the nation."

NBN under scrutiny by country MPs

Australia - the country's newspapers were using the poro markeing of the NBN as reason to vote for the opposition

[abc] The last week and a half of the election campaign was characterised by something amazing for us geeks: Access to the internet was lodged front and centre as an election issue.

How times change. Communications Minister Richard Alston used to deride broadband internet access by labelling it as nothing more than a high-speed pornography delivery vector, and here we are, less than eight years later, and ubiquitous access to broadband is actually swinging an election.

As desperation mounted during the election campaign, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and current Communications Minister Stephen Conroy spent a Thursday morning in mid-August pushing a big blue button to officially open the Opticomm-built NBN trial network in Midway Point, Tasmania. NBNCo CEO Mike Quigley enthusiastically added to the political booster-shot by claiming that speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second will be possible.

But somehow it wasn't enough. The sales job behind the NBN was so bad that the editorial pages of some of the country's newspapers were using it as part of the reasoning behind throwing their support behind Tony Abbott.

Online, the Australian Network Operators Group (AusNOG) has hosted weeks of energised debate about whether the NBN is actually needed. You read that correctly: The Government has done such a catastrophically bad job of communicating their broadband vision that they can't even convincingly sell it to broadband ISPs.

Why is that? Ubiquitous high-speed broadband ought to be a no-brainer, especially in regional areas which have been very poorly served by virtually every type of infrastructure.

So what might a hypothetical independent MP say to the Government if he was so bold as to sit down to tell the Communications Minister how to do his job?

Firstly: cut out the hyperbole. We're all told that South Korea is "leaving us behind" in the broadband stakes, having had 100 megabit per second fibre to the home for years. But that means we know that most of the pie-in-the-sky innovative new services that NBN boosters wax lyrical about are probably hyperventilative garbage. Having had near-ubiquitous high-speed broadband for so long, the South Koreans use it in more or less the same way that we use our own internet access, only faster. It stands to reason that we'll probably use it in the same way too.

That's not to say that innovation won't happen, but let's get a grip: It's hard to believe that the NBN will transform schoolrooms given that most schools already have broadband internet access; and I'll believe that we'll all make widespread use of telemedicine as soon as malpractice laws are amended enough to make my GP feel comfortable about prescribing a glass of milk and a good lie-down without an in-person consultation.

The benefits arising from the NBN will be far more mundane. They'll be more concerned with ubiquity, not speed. They'll remove the tyranny of distance that causes people and businesses in Forbes or Hamilton to be disadvantaged against people and businesses in Melbourne and Sydney. And they'll be incremental, quietly displacing offline parts of our lives in the same way that Google has quietly displaced the White Pages.

Secondly: cut the guts out of the financial arguments. $43 billion sounds like a lot of money, but as one of my colleagues points out, it's only about twice as much as Australia is intending to spend on replacing the Collins Class submarines it bought less than 15 years ago. If the Government can run an economic stimulus programme that sees $44 billion spent in a year and project a surplus less than four years later, we should be able to spread the same amount of expenditure out over a ten year NBN build cycle without going broke. We survived the GFC, so we actually do have the money.

Thirdly: The price for access. Neither the Government nor NBNCo have yet made any statements about how much NBN broadband services are likely to cost. Indeed, Quigley's admissions in the May Senate Estimates round could be indicative of an attempt to cloud the issue. Mr. Quigley confirmed that services on the NBN trial in Tasmania are being offered to ISPs for $0 setup fee and $0 per month ongoings - meaning that retail prices offered by trial-participant ISPs will likely be something of a bait-and-switch: There will be a future day when NBNCo will increase their wholesale price. What will Tasmanian broadband prices look like then?

It's not difficult to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations to work out what the access price can be. The Government has said that the entire $43 billion enterprise will be sold to private investors five years after the network is built, and those private investors will want a commercial return on their money. Picking a number out of the air, 8% of $43 billion is about $3.44 billion per annum. Divide that over the 8 million premises expected to receive an NBN service to get $430 per household per annum, or about $36 per month. That's assuming that the network costs nothing per annum to operate, never needs to be maintained, and carries no additional debt which needs to be serviced from operating income, so perhaps bump it up to $50 per month per service to be conservative (and bump it up again if take-up isn't 100%: What if commercial returns must be yielded from 4 million premises instead of 8 million?)

Building the NBN non-business case

Australia - Indepdent from Tasmania backs the NBN plan

[abc] The Independent candidate for the Tasmanian seat of Denison has thrown his support behind Labor's National Broadband Network.

Andrew Wilkie is due to meet the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in the coming days.

He has a lead of almost 1,200 votes over the ALP' Denison candidate and is likely to win the formerly safe Labor seat.

In an interview with the ABC's Stateline program, Mr Wilkie said he backed Labor on broadband but did not necessarily support the party on other issues.

"I'm a strong believer in the National Broadband Network as advocated and being built by the Labor Party. On that particular issue I favour the Labor Party's position," he said.

The full interview with Mr Wilkie can be heard on ABC1's Stateline program tonight at 7:30pm.

Independent backs NBN rollout

Friday, August 20, 2010

Australia - Telemedicine tauted as a killer app on NBN

[the australian] JULIA Gillard's $392.3m splurge on telemedicine is a move that does three desirable things for Labor all at once, writes Adam Cresswell.

It will appeal to rural voters, who have long faced great difficulties in getting access to specialist health, and who have felt ignored in the health reform discussions so far.

Also, the promise of video consultations in the middle of the night, to be available to Australians nationwide from July 2012, will sound very appealing to families, at least until they realise they will first need to have suitable web-ready cameras and a superfast connection.

Second, the policy makes it easier for voters to see what benefits the expensive and controversial National Broadband Network will bring, even though, paradoxically, the promised rural consultations do not depend on the NBN's rollout and are likely to pick up rapidly as soon as the funding begins in July next year.

And third, the announcement corners Tony Abbott, since he will find it hard to respond to what is likely to prove a popular policy that relies to some extent on the NBN and Medicare Locals, both of which the Coalition has already promised to scrap.

But there are potential pitfalls in the telemedicine approach, and careful implementation will be needed if a returned Labor government is to avoid them.

For one thing, online consultations are not likely to replace face-to-face care except for those in extremely remote settings, since a doctor cannot palpate a virtual patient's liver or examine their throat.

Some doctors may also be cautious about getting involved, if they fear they stand a greater chance of being sued for missing a problem they would have been more likely to detect face to face.

Reflecting these concerns, the Australian Medical Association is calling for doctors to have the right to decide whether an online consultation is appropriate, and seeking assurances that online services will not compromise patient safety.

The policy small print says several times the details will be worked out in consultation with the profession - a sign that it at least recognises these dangers.

Clever policy appeals on three fronts

Australia - Optus calls on opposition to weaken the incumbent's power

[the australian] OPTUS chief Paul O'Sullivan says the Coalition needs to show greater commitment to loosening Telstra's grip on last-mile access to homes.

Mr O'Sullivan was commenting on the Coalition's broadband policy, which would see it scrap Labor's $43 billion plan to replace Telstra's ageing copper network with fibre links, if it was elected.

Labor's plan offers broadband speeds up to a 1Gbps for 93 per cent of the population, but the Coalition believes it is too reckless.

It has a more frugal plan to spend $6.3bn upgrading existing HFC cable, build new long-haul fibre links and provide grants for wireless and satellite technology for regional blackspots.

It also plans to introduce legislation to reform the Trade Practices Act to strengthen competition and promote broadband investment. The reforms would be designed to provide the sector with pricing and regulatory certainty comparable to other industries such as gas and electricity.

However, Mr O'Sullivan said he feared Telstra would be left free to continue leveraging control over its copper network to the detriment of rivals.

"The one area we'd like to see more of in the Coalition policy is a greater commitment to the structural reform of the industry which we think is necessary," Mr O'Sullivan said.

Under Labor's NBN plan, Telstra would effectively become a wholesale customer of NBN Co along with other telecommunications providers.

As part of a deal with the federal government, Telstra has agreed to gradually close its copper network, give NBN Co access to its facilities and move its customers on to the new fibre network in exchange for concessions worth $11bn to the carrier.

Optus government affairs director Maha Krishnapillai said that while the Coalition policy acknowledged the need for better broadband and addressed some key competitive issues, it was missing an essential third element.

"We would like to see greater recognition that Telstra's behaviour over the last decade or so has meant that they've been able to leverage that control over the last mile in a way that they don't think they should be allowed to in the future and we think we would be confident we could work with the Coalition to resolve that," Mr Krishnapillai said.

When he was asked for comment, opposition communications spokesman Tony Smith simply restated parts of the Coalition policy pertaining to competition.

Through a spokesman, Mr Smith said: "On the regulatory front, as our policy states, we will introduce legislation containing the reforms to Part XIB and XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 which are presently contained in the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, in substantially the same form as those reforms are presently drafted."

Coalition told to weaken Telstra, says Optus chief

Australia - ALP is promoting the NBN as a passport to a brighter future

[the australian] LABOR is heavily promoting the idea of the National Broadband Network as the country's stamped passport to a brighter future.

Julia Gillard used the ALP launch yesterday to once again "embrace the technology of the future" and pointedly describe how high-speed broadband would begin to transform healthcare from July next year.

In a campaign so bereft of big ideas, she painted a picture where people in rural, remote and outer suburban areas could use broadband to have follow-up consultations with specialists from the offices of their local GPs and where parents of kids with rashes could consult doctors via videoconference during the night.

"Imagine the power of this," she declared.

Labor is, of course, focused on imagining the power of the image for voters in marginal seats. It's not about developing cheaper alternatives by better use of upgraded existing technology, including fibre, wireless and cable connection. It's about selling the dream.

Not surprisingly, Paul Fletcher, Liberal backbencher and former Optus executive, insists it is unnecessary for most homes to have guaranteed speeds of 100Mbs for two-way telemedicine.

"That may be necessary for high resolution files like cat scans," he says. "But the idea that people will need to send those sorts of files from their kitchens is ridiculous. We are not anti-fibre. We are already proposing to focus on providing fibre connections to the 50 per cent of schools that don't have them as well as to hospitals that don't -- although many now do.

"But the biggest driver for high-speed broadband at home is downloading videos faster. That is the overseas experience. The big driver is pay-TV. Where is the evidence of applications that require that bandwidth? Videoconferencing occurs today and it might be better with 100Mbs, but is it sufficient to justify spending that amount of public money?"

Instead, the Liberals are proposing to fix up the broadband blackspots in outer urban areas as a matter of urgency and offer $2 billion worth of investment in wireless networks and another $2.75bn in building fibre backhaul to compete with Telstra.

Their political problem remains. The promise of fibre connections to every home offers a "gold plated" solution nationally. That makes it harder to sell the idea that the Coalition version may not be as good, but it's good enough in terms of value for money. And minus a proper cost benefit analysis, Labor simply argues that the National Broadband Network is the twenty-first century answer for an efficient economy. Campaign case closed.

The $43bn fibre to the home model is monumental, both in the scale of the project and in the government's willingness to intervene and spend public money in the telecommunications market in a way that is totally unprecedented internationally. Other countries rely on much greater private investment.

Despite some evidence of voter concern about the estimated cost, Labor still sees its big promise as a political plus. The message is that Labor understands the the future while Tony "I'm no tech-head" Abbott does not. This is the ultimate build-it-and-they-will-come strategy -- new applications, new uses and millions of users signing up for ever faster speeds.

Yet the government's plan ignores the remarkable and constant advances in alternative technologies in favour of establishing one new national fixed-fibre monopoly. The HFC cable networks of Telstra and Optus, for example, already pass 2.5 million homes in the capital cities. Optus, which passes 1.4 million homes, has just upgraded its service to offer speeds of 70Mbs. Telstra has upgraded its Melbourne cable network to 100Mbs, but has not done so elsewhere because the customers aren't willing to pay. Even with a much chastened Telstra now willing to slash its prices on all services to try to win back market share, the demand for that broadband speed so far is hardly overwhelming. Nor is Telstra's use of cable likely to grow under a Labor government, given the $11bn deal between NBN Co and Telstra precludes it from competing with the National Broadband Network.

Labor's plan also ignores the home truth that for people within a couple of kilometres of exchanges, the much maligned copper network is still able to offer broadband speeds of around 20Mbs to 25Mbs -- adequate for most people's demands for the foreseeable future, according to the goverment's own implementation study. And the telcos are also already rolling out fibre to CBD's offices and some high-use suburbs.

But it is the high-speed growth in wireless broadband that is the most obvious commercial competitor to a ubiquitous fixed-fibre network. Telstra is promising peak speeds of over 40Mbs on its wireless network this year. Labor's argument against all this is that just like cable, speed on wireless networks decreases the more people use it and that none of the fibre alternatives offer fast enough two-way technology -- upload speeds as well as download speeds -- for future demand. While it's true that peak speed doesn't translate into average speed, technicians say that a 100Mbs cable service would only slow down to 70Mbs if every person in the street was on. And who knows where wireless speeds will be in eight years time, given how extraordinary the advances have been in the past eight years?

It also seems clear that people are more than willing to trade some speed for mobility. Even with lousy pricing, Telstra now has over 1.6 million wireless broadband customers while revenue from fixed internet fell last year.

So, what about pricing and takeup for NBN services?

The government needs to keep the $43bn cost off-budget by declaring it is not just making an investment in the national interest but one designed to make a return.

The implementation study declared this possible in the very long term -- 15 years minimum -- although at very low rates of return just over the government bond rate. But this requires a very high percentage of homes -- between 75 per cent to 90 per cent -- to pay to take the service.

That is a very big gamble, even dressed up as vision.

Broadband takes centre stage in debate on future

Australia - ALP leader declines to give a figure for the homes to be reached by the NBN

[smh] Prime Minister Julia Gillard has twice failed to put a number on how many homes will be connected to the national broadband network during the next three years.

Ms Gillard was campaigning in Townsville, north Queensland, on Tuesday, where she marked the start of the $43 billion network's construction on mainland Australia.

Construction in Townsville will take about 12 weeks and the city will be one of five sites around Australia to get first access to the network.

Ms Gillard boasted the superfast network would be capable of speeds 1000 times faster than many people experience today.

But she twice referred reporters to the NBN Co website when asked how many homes would be connected to the network in the next three years.

"My simple point is, I mean, look today, it's happening today," she said.

The prime minister also could not say how much it would cost the average family to hook up to the network.

"It depends what you want," Ms Gillard said, adding the beauty of network was that it "super fast".

Different service providers, spruiking their products, would compete on price.

"Obviously you will pick what you want in your home based on those price comparisons," Ms Gillard said.

Gillard defers NBN questions

Seychelles - Airtel to invest USD 10 million including an undersea cable

[telegeography] India’s Bharti Airtel has announced plans to invest USD10 million in its newly acquired fixed and mobile telecoms network in the Seychelles over three years , whilst also participating in the Seychelles East Africa submarine cable (SEAS) project, reports the Indian Economic Times. Bharti Airtel Africa CEO Manoj Kohli shared the group’s plans with the islands’ vice president Danny Faure, following its USD62 million purchase of Telecom Seychelles (Airtel), which already had a well-established partnership with Bharti, including usage of the Airtel branding. The transaction followed Bharti Airtel’s acquisition of the mobile operations of Zain Group in 15 African countries. The USD34 million SEAS project is aimed at improving the Seychelles’ global connectivity by building a 2,000km undersea high speed link to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Kohli added: ‘We will leverage our expertise and infrastructure to offer customised data solutions for our large enterprise and corporate clients, which will help them gain a unique competitive advantage.’

USD10m plan for Airtel Seychelles; Bharti announces commitment to SEAS cable

New Zealand - Roaming "bill shocks" of $1,000 from using phones overseas

[nz herald] Unwary travellers are being stung by $1000 bills after using their phones and mobile broadband overseas - and the issue is on the Government's radar.

Communications and IT Minister Steven Joyce said it was one of the first issues raised when he took over the portfolio and admits he has been a victim of "sticker shock" while using his phone in Australia.

He is leading an investigation with his Australian counterpart, Senator Steven Conroy, into roaming between the two countries.

Mr Joyce said it was easiest to focus on the transtasman market - about one million people a year are flying each way - given the complexities of influencing other jurisdictions around the world.

An Australian report by international accounting firm KPMG estimated average markups charged by telcos for calls made while roaming - using your phone in another country - were 300 per cent higher than the margin on local mobile calls.

The disparity is most notable when considering mobile data used by people accessing the internet and email from their phones or mobile broadband devices.

Consumers can expect to pay between 20 and 500 times the local data price for the privilege of checking their emails while in Australia.

An initial report on the transtasman market by government agencies in New Zealand and Australia has found that we are getting reasonable features and services when we roam between the two countries, but prices were relatively high and it was hard for consumers to figure out what was behind the high prices.

Are we being ripped off?

"Look, it's too early for me to say that," said Mr Joyce.

"That would be a prejudicial comment to make. We're part-way through a process."

But Telecommunications Users Association head Ernie Newman is convinced we are being taken for a ride.

He is just back from an industry meeting in Brunei where he paid less per minute for the 28-hour flight, complete with meals, drinks and in-flight movies, than the $5-a-minute cost of a call back to New Zealand.

"What it amounts to is a huge industry slush fund that nobody really has any incentive to do anything about," said Mr Newman.

Consumers were unaware of the huge difference between what they might pay locally for calls and data compared with when they were in another country.

"A mobile phone should be an international tool that you can pick up and switch on when you arrive anywhere in the world, use your voice and data and know that what you pay is going to be more than you pay at home, but is going to be affordable and reasonable and somewhat related to the underlying cost of the transaction.

"Instead what you pay are charges that are quite frankly rip-offs, quite over the top."

Vodafone spokesman Paul Brislen said the boom in smartphones - mobile data use has tripled in the past year - has made people comfortable with using data on their phones and they then carry on the same behaviour when travelling.

"Text and voice, it absolutely is a case of knock yourselves out. To extend that into the data realm is a relatively new experience for a lot of travellers."

Telecom spokesman Mark Watts said the price reflected the deals the telco could strike with operators overseas.

He said that Australia's position as the number one destination for travellers meant it was easier for Telecom to get a good deal with network operators there.

"You can imagine our bargaining power in Nigeria or Germany or Mexico is necessarily much more limited because there are relatively few New Zealanders landing with their phones and wanting to dial," said Mr Watts.

"It's wrong to say that across the board there is huge, fat margins because there isn't.

"Those margins in any given market are a reflection of the business we can do and the deals we can strike with the people who own the network."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has calculated that a quarter of what we pay to roam overseas is a retail markup.

Vodafone's general manager public policy Hayden Glass said that 25 per cent margin didn't sound huge in the context of telecommunications services, but competition in the market would drive those margins down.

Roaming charges nasty shock for travellers

Australia - comparison of ALP and coalition on the National Broadband Network


It is a rare thing that telecommunications policy is a major election issue – normally it is areas such as health and education that sway the electorate. Election 2010 is different, but also the same.

There are few policy areas where the ALP and the Coalition differ as markedly as broadband.

The ALP intends to build fibre to the premises of 93 per cent of the Australian population with the remaining 7 per cent to be connected to wireless and satellite services. The ALP's main strength is the argument that it is an investment in the future – that building the network will allow for more data hungry applications to run in the future; a claim supported by the recent announcement by Mike Quigley, CEO of NBN Co, that the network will in fact be able to support speeds of up to 1 gigabits per second (up from the initial claim of 100 megabits per second). The main criticisms of this plan have included concerns that no cost benefit analysis has been conducted, that the $43 billion to be spent is too ambitious and that it will be difficult for the NBN to become profitable or even be able to charge affordable prices.

The Coalition plan focuses on a combination of fixed line and wireless broadband as the solution to getting satisfactory connections to the Australian population. It emphasises that the government should only step in where private commercial providers find it commercially unviable. Supporters of this plan have lauded the affordability of the scope in contrast to the ALP's proposed NBN. However, criticisms of this plan have included the fact that wireless spectrum is a limited resource, that it does not guarantee super-fast connectivity, that the plan may require large numbers of mobile towers to be built and may even push up internet prices.

Criticism of both plans is that that they fail to address the bottleneck of the limited amount of capacity in the fibre links between Australia and the rest of the world. A large amount of content on the internet is stored offshore, principally the US. While there will be fast connectivity between people in Australia under both plans, the limited capacity of the pipes bringing the content in from offshore means that there will still be costs potentially leading to the retention of capped data plans.

Most people are not sure why they need 100 megabits per second and each party has sought to bring it back to key voter issues such as the opportunity for people to receive enhanced health and education services. Interestingly the focus has not been on the significant productivity benefits that such connectivity would bring.

ALP vs. Libs: broadband policies compared

Australia - First Terabyte plan on the NBN has been announced

[iinet] iiNet has announced Australia’s first terabyte plan on the National Broadband Network, with a massive boost to speed and quota on all of its NBN fibre plans.
Managing Director, Michael Malone said iiNet wanted to give Australia a taste of what the National Broadband Band can deliver, for the same price they'd usually pay for ADSL2+.
“The main advantage of the NBN is speed. You don’t know what it’s like until you actually use a reliable 100M fibre connection in the home. And these speeds are seriously awesome!” said Mr Malone.

“You could download an album from iTunes in under 15 seconds, or grab a whole movie in a little under seven minutes, so we’re also ramping up the amount of data included to make sure customers can really use it.

“The NBN is essential infrastructure that will help us keep up with the rest of the world. We’re really pushing copper to its limits with new applications like IPTV, but it won’t be able to deliver the next generation of applications.

“We’re excited to be part of the initial rollout of the NBN in Tasmania and look forward to connecting more Australian households in coming years,” Malone added.
Mr Malone said the updated fibre plans would be available to new customers from 1 September 2010, with the increased 100mbps download speeds offered free of charge until 30 June 2011.

iiNet Offers Terabyte Plans To NBN Customers

Australia - NBN "households realise they face costs of up to $3000 to fully exploit the potential of the super-fast internet"

[the australian] HOME owners face a heavy slug to distribute the ultra-fast internet access promised by Labor's National Broadband Network around the house.

Projections for the take-up of the government's $43 billion NBN could prove optimistic once households realise they face costs of up to $3000 to fully exploit the potential of the super-fast internet.

If Labor is re-elected tomorrow and the NBN is built, about 93 per cent of premises will have a

fibre optic cable connection provided sometime in the next eight years.

Although the fibre will come to the house, families will have to invest hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars hardwiring their homes so they can access the technology to its full potential and use many bandwidth-intensive activities at once.

Network installation experts agreed that homes should have certain gadgets hardwired to the main NBN connection with ethernet cable to get the best results, rather than using a cheaper wireless connection.

Allan Aitchison, general manager of network engineering at Adelaide-based cable and wireless installer Mimp, said households should look to hardwiring desktop computers, games consoles and streaming media devices such as the new internet-capable televisions.

"The cost of installing a wired outlet ranges from $250 to $450 an outlet depending on the style of the house," Mr Aitchison said

"The best case for three outlet points in the house would be about $750 whereas an old bluestone house could cost around $450 an outlet."

Malcolm Moore, a 40-year veteran of telecommunications and electrical engineering, said a typical category 5 high-speed cable installation with four or five ports used to connect devices directly into the NBN could cost home owners anywhere between $600 and $1200, but he warned those costs could skyrocket if technicians knew demand was high.

"It could be a bit like the BER in a way," Mr Moore said. "If technicians know that the government was going to give them lots of work, then they could bump their prices up significantly."

The NBN, if built, will pass more than 10 million premises. If every premise spent an average of $500 on bandwidth distribution equipment, the extra cost to the nation beyond the $43bn price tag for the network would be $5bn.

The Coalition has vowed if elected to scrap the NBN and substitute a modest $6.3bn network using existing copper, wireless and HFC cable technologies. The plan aims to provide a 12 megabit per second connection to 97 per cent of the population.

Householders wanting to distribute access to the Coalition's more modest pipe would face the same problems as those on the NBN.

Labor has promised a 100 megabit service or better to homes and offices passed by the NBN fibre.

The advantage of a high-speed fibre-to-the-home connection is being able to do many things at once. High-definition internet TV could be playing in the lounge room and a large file could be downloading within seconds on to the family PC in the study, while a high-definition movie could be streaming on to a games console in the rumpus room.

Meanwhile, others in the home could be pulling content down wirelessly on laptops and iPads.

The problem is getting the high-speed pipe to all the gadgets.

When homes are connected to the fibre network, the NBN Co will install what is known as a Network Termination Unit that will be used as the single point of entry for users to connect to the internet. The NTU, which will act like a modem, will come with four ethernet ports and two analog jacks so internet-enabled devices and landline phones can be connected.

Consumers will be able to hook directly into the NTU for instant broadband access but further distribution of the super-fast speeds promised by the NBN to other areas of the home will need to be done wirelessly or through a maze of cables.

Mr Moore said it was possible to use a home's existing copper wiring to access the NBN's high-speed services but it was not the ideal way to get the best possible connection.

"For the best service, you would want to lay your home with Cat 5 and install extra ports in other rooms of your house," Mr Moore said. "That way there would be no speed degradation.

"You would be looking at a good morning's work by a couple of competent technicians. All they would need to do would be to drop the cables between existing walls or bring it up from underneath the house."

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said it was up to home owners to decide whether they wanted to wire up their homes, but it was not a prerequisite for getting the promised speed increases.

"NBN is providing people with a free connection to the network inside their home," Mr Quigley said. "There is no compulsion to do anything else. But of course people can enhance their service if they like by talking to their service provider."

The first NBN customers connected in Tasmania are tending to use routers to convert their optic fibre connection into a wireless connection.

Damian and Kylie Rodman are among just a few NBN customers at Midway Point, east of Hobart.

"We have a wireless router, which means we can connect throughout the house - a main computer, laptop and mobile phones," Mr Rodman said.

"We love it. There's no reduction in speed. It takes less than 30 seconds to download a song and about 10 minutes to download a one gigabite movie."

The 25 megabits per second connection was just as quick anywhere in the house as near the router, a small black box on a desk in the lounge room.

"I can be sitting in bed with the laptop at the other end of the house and it's not an issue," Mrs Rodman said.

The NBN connection cost $75 a month, including unlimited local and national calls, and ISP iPrimus provided the router free.

Homes to pay heavy price for internet from NBN

Australia - NBN has made technology an election issue like never before

[abc] Technology has become an election issue like never before with the NBN at the heart of the matter. Neither side has made a good case for having it or not having it so let's have a look at what we know.

Where the numbers come from

Virtually all of the numbers that are being bandied around by both sides come from an impenetrably dense tomb [tome??] called the Implementation Study for the NBN by McKinsey MPMG which cost $25 million to commission. For all those people who think it's been worked out on the back of a napkin, that's a mighty big napkin.

There's an almost total lack of graphs and spreadsheets in it and the key facts are spread out all over the place. Few people can have read it and fully understood it but one man who has is Mark McDonnell from financial specialists BBY. He gathered all of the figures and reengineered them to form tables and graphs which show how everything was worked out and what assumptions had been made to get to them. He's not happy.

NBN laid bare

Australia - NBN in election campaign - "Gillard is probably less ignorant than Abbott, but only slightly"

[arnnet] In science, parsimony is preference for the least complex explanation for an observation. Applied to the current election campaign, the NBN, filter and tech, it probably is as simple as: Abbott is incredibly ignorant; Smith is faking it, badly; Robb is faking it, better; Conroy acts, and acts, and acts; Gillard is probably less ignorant than Abbott, but only slightly; Quigley has knowledge - but would you trust him?.

And that's being nice.

Here I am – a Labor voter tried and true, only a couple of green votes dotting nearly 40 of years of voting, and I'm swinging – nowhere. Having fallen off the Ruddster's bandwagon when he became the Duddster and found Big Red somewhat lacking in appeal, particularly as the ALP kept making the same mistakes they had with the KDudd, I was open to change.

But all there was … was Abbott. That just isn't possible. It was bad enough when he was just a conservative budgie smuggler-wearing sexist religious zealot. Each to his own and all that. No problem. We all have our beliefs. But a luddite conservative budgie smuggler-wearing sexist religious zealot? One step too far. This week he didn't even know his own broadband policy – and he's the leader of the party. Heaven help us. There is no excuse, people, none, no matter how much you analyse it or philosophise – as my colleague, the erudite Mr Ramli did - that it's actually a play for the average-man-vote. Tony, I don't care if you aren't Bill Gates. I'd just like you to be vaguely tech literate. My 82-year-old mum knows more than you do.

Before last weekend Malcolm Turnbull represented some sort of salvation. A great white hope. Not anymore. Australians don't want 100Mbps broadband, he says. Hey! You! Get off of my cloud, don't hang around 'cause two's a crowd … no matter what Steve Ballmer says about having a personal cloud and sharing. I want my 100Mbps. So do a lot of professions. Education, e-Health, big business, finance. And then there's all of us happy-go-lucky little album and film downloaders (legally, of course) – we want our 100Mbps. And why not?

According to, one of the several worldwide download and upload speed defining sites, Australia is 36th in the world for downloading speed and 57th for upload speed. That is staggeringly awful. And before you say I live in a tech bubble, believe me I don't. Yes, I'm the managing editor of a tech-related mag, yes I'm a bit of an Apple fiend, but as much of my spare time as possible is spent outdoors – fishing, preferably in places where's the no tech, no mobile coverage and no people. So when I am at home, I like to play on my Mac – fast! I would like the country I live in to be up there in the modern world not running a long way behind the Aland Islands (an archipelago in the Baltic Sea), Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and other such technically advanced and recognised nations. Ta ta Malcolm.

Tony Smith. That's all you can really say. His contribution to this election campaign has been a gobsmacking nothing. He's a bore. He needed big old Andrew Robb to hold his hand when he launched the Coalition broadband policy. And he obviously knew nearly as little as his boss, friar Abbott. He ran away straight after the launch and hasn't been heard of since. Can't vote for that.

So what am I left with? Conroy. It is a sad world when Stephen Conroy is the best of the two major parties tech players. He's a showman. And he's irritating. He's titters like schoolboy and acts like one. You get the impression he thought it was funny to put cow poo in other kids' socks on school camp. He also says stupid things when it comes to tech. But at least he says something! And, occasionally, he gets it right. Mind you, he wanted a filter. That was bad. But he got smart and got rid of it.

And the PM. Has a thoroughly horrible job running round trying to clean up after Mr Dudd, plug all those little holes that keep leaking disaster after disaster. Understand tech? Jules hasn't time. Probably doesn't care either. But at least she went to Tassie for a fake NBN launch and pulled it off - by pushing a button. Oh well.

Quigley is, of course, a paid employee. But as paid employees go at least he sounds like he knows what he is talking about. Mind you, at a million bucks a year he ought to. But the whole 1Gbps download thing this week - Mike, you don't have to suck up to the school captain, Stephen, so obviously.

The only person who actually seems to have brain when it comes to tech, the NBN, the whole damn thing is the Greens' Scott Ludlam. He's been erudite, smart, and my wife thinks he's hot. Pity, his party wants to ban fishing in vast areas of Australian waters and close zoos. Enough said.

Folks, it's a disaster. There are many fine men in this country when it comes to understanding technology and its place in the future for Australia and Australians. None of them are in politics. When it comes to technology, this has been a farce with the NBN – not the politicians, our so-called leaders - as the starring player. Poor Mr Filter was promised a lead role but the script was rewritten and he was sent away to a dark place (rumours are the Gulag Archipelago), hopefully never to return. And as for Mr and Mrs Data Retention, well they are … secret. Of course. There are plenty of others worthy of a bit-part but their roles came to nothing.

So with just days to go I'm left with one reality: Every vote's a winner, baby (cue Hot Chocolate) ... … but what the hell am I going to do with mine?

Actually, I know. Aland Islands here I come.

YARN: NBN a pipeline to political parsimony

Australia - ALP leader has warned of lost jobs if NBN does not go ahead

[it wire] Julia Gillard has used her last set-piece speech of the campaign to warn that Australia will lose jobs to offshore markets if it does not go ahead with the construction of a high-speed national broadband network.

With both Labor and the Coalition marking the final 48 hours of campaigning with distinctly negative campaigns, the Prime Minister said the economy "can't afford to risk" not building a high-speed broadband infrastructure for the future.

In keeping with the Labor theme that its broadband policy is at its heart an economic reform, Ms Gillard told the packed town hall meeting in the western Sydney suburb of Mt Druitt that the NBN would support jobs, improve education and deliver better services.

Ms Gillard said the Coalition plan for broadband – in which it will halt construction of the NBN - was "the same as waking up in the 1970s and saying how about we keep manual typewriters and don’t ever have computers."

"Imagine where our economy might be if we had said that in the 1970s, (had said) manual typewriters are good enough for Australia, while meanwhile Bill Gates and the rest of the world are getting computers."

"Imagine how few jobs we would have in this country if we had gone down that path. Well Mr Abbott is asking you to head down that path. Don't risk that, our economy cant afford to risk that."

Tony Abbott, meanwhile, who has vowed to campaign for the final 36 hours of the campaign continuously up until the polls close tomorrow evening, has used the broadband to highlight "Labor waste" and the need for spending restraint.

Mr Abbott has been less keen to talk about his alternative broadband policy than to highlight the cost of government’s broadband. He has continued in radio interviews and election doorstops to highlight the lower-cost Coalition broadband plan as capable of delivering the same kinds of services as Governments'.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was in Darwin today on a campaign stop to look at some eHealth services at Darwin Hospital that he says will benefit from the faster pipes of the NBN. He made a commitment that Darwin would be one of the first cities to receive the NBN in a re-elected Gillard Government.

"Existing telehealth and other e-health applications will receive a huge boost from two major initiatives announced by the Gillard Labor Government - the rollout of the NBN and the announcement of a $392 million investment in Medicare rebates for online consultations," Senator Conroy said.

Julia on NBN: Don't risk jobs, economy

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Australia - PM has emphasised the use of the NBN for telemedicine to reach rural and remote areas

[the australian] JULIA Gillard's $392.3m splurge on telemedicine is a move that does three desirable things for Labor all at once, writes Adam Cresswell.

It will appeal to rural voters, who have long faced great difficulties in getting access to specialist health, and who have felt ignored in the health reform discussions so far.

Also, the promise of video consultations in the middle of the night, to be available to Australians nationwide from July 2012, will sound very appealing to families, at least until they realise they will first need to have suitable web-ready cameras and a superfast connection.

Second, the policy makes it easier for voters to see what benefits the expensive and controversial National Broadband Network will bring, even though, paradoxically, the promised rural consultations do not depend on the NBN's rollout and are likely to pick up rapidly as soon as the funding begins in July next year.

And third, the announcement corners Tony Abbott, since he will find it hard to respond to what is likely to prove a popular policy that relies to some extent on the NBN and Medicare Locals, both of which the Coalition has already promised to scrap.

But there are potential pitfalls in the telemedicine approach, and careful implementation will be needed if a returned Labor government is to avoid them.

For one thing, online consultations are not likely to replace face-to-face care except for those in extremely remote settings, since a doctor cannot palpate a virtual patient's liver or examine their throat.

Some doctors may also be cautious about getting involved, if they fear they stand a greater chance of being sued for missing a problem they would have been more likely to detect face to face.

Reflecting these concerns, the Australian Medical Association is calling for doctors to have the right to decide whether an online consultation is appropriate, and seeking assurances that online services will not compromise patient safety.

The policy small print says several times the details will be worked out in consultation with the profession - a sign that it at least recognises these dangers.

Clever policy appeals on three fronts

Australia - Govt accused of deploying the NBN selectively in marginal seats to influence the election

[the australian] THE government has been accused of cynically using the National Broadband Network and the GP super clinics program to sandbag marginal seats.

The accusation came after Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan yesterday travelled to Townsville to launch construction of the NBN on the mainland in the ultra-marginal electorate of Herbert -- one of several marginal seats that benefit from the early rollout.

And an analysis of the GP super clinics program has revealed that of the 13 clinics identified by the government as fully or partially operational, eight are in marginal electorates, while of the 22 promised during the election campaign, half are in marginal seats.

Broadband and health have emerged as key election battlegrounds, with the Prime Minister putting them at the centre of Monday's campaign launch and Tony Abbott vowing to dump Labor's NBN and GP super clinics programs if elected.

On their visit to Townsville yesterday, the Prime Minister and Treasurer highlighted the economic growth and new jobs the NBN would deliver to the region and declared broadband a vital issue in this Saturday's election.

Townsville is the first of five pilot sites on which construction of the NBN has begun on the mainland. Townsville falls in the Coalition-held seat of Herbert, which is now notionally Labor with a margin of just 0.3 per cent after a redistribution since the 2007 election.

Households in Tasmania have already begun using the NBN and more than 1600km of regional backhaul links have been laid in regions such as that around Mount Isa in Queensland.

But Townsville, where about 3000 homes and businesses will have access to the super-fast broadband network under the pilot, is the first mainland town to receive the NBN.

The five NBN pilot sites, which were announced in March, service three marginal seats, one safe Labor seat and an independent seat.

Labor is staging a last-week blitz on marginal seats, particularly in Queensland and western Sydney, as polling shows the election will be tight.

Last night, Ms Gillard confirmed she would join Mr Abbott tonight at a town hall forum held at Brisbane's Broncos Leagues Club. She also reissued a challenge to the Opposition Leader to join her in a one-hour economic debate before the event, although Mr Abbott declined and continues to demand a 30-minute debate.

The Prime Minister has wasted no time visiting regional areas to sell her plan, announced at the campaign launch on Monday, to harness the power of the NBN to deliver telemedicine services, including online consultation with specialists and after-hours access to general practitioners.

The initiatives, worth nearly $400m, are part of a plan to appeal to people in remote and rural areas and city fringes while also capitalising on Mr Abbott's promise to dump the NBN.

Besides Herbert, the electorates targeted for the early NBN rollout include Gilmore on the NSW south coast, held by the Coalition but now notionally Labor with a margin of 0.3 per cent, and Kingston on the southern fringe of Adelaide, which is held by Labor with a margin of 4.4 per cent.

A further 14 second-release sites were announced last month, 12 of which service marginal electorates.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday denied that politics had anything to do with the choice of sites, pointing out that he was not even involved in their selection.

Instead, Senator Conroy said the sites were selected at arm's length by NBN Co, the government-owned company established to design, build and operate the NBN, on the basis of criteria such as engineering and construction requirements, network design and the level of existing broadband infrastructure.

Senator Conroy said the timing of construction also had nothing to do with the election and had been planned for months.

"For many months I have said on the public record, that the first-release sites would start construction from July-August," he said.

"The NBN continues to be rolled out on time and on budget."

He said NBN Co signed a contract with Ergon Energy last month for the construction works in Townsville. A spokeswoman for NBN Co said construction works would begin at a second NBN pilot site in South Australia this week, and at the remaining three sites within weeks.

But opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb seized on the start of construction in Townsville to attack the NBN rollout as the "most cynical exercise imaginable". "For Labor, the NBN has always been about politics not policy," Mr Robb said. "It is glaringly obvious that locations identified for the supposed early stage of the NBN rollout have been based purely on political calculations as part of Labor's broadest sandbagging strategy designed to buy a dishononourable victory in this election. "

Mr Robb said Labor was also using taxpayer money for political purposes to build GP clinics in marginal seats, creating unnecessary competition for existing family GP practices.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the sites for the GP super clinics had been selected purely on the basis of need.

"Regional seats and outer suburban electorates, which are short of doctors thanks to Mr Abbott's cap on GP training places, are typically marginal seats," Ms Roxon said. "We make no apology for ensuring these communities have access to doctors and other health professionals. "

Calculations by The Australian show that of the 13 super clinics identified by the government as being fully or partially operational, eight are in marginal electorates -- five of which are held by the government, and three by the Coalition. In addition, half the new super clinics announced during the election campaign have been pledged to marginal electorates, according to figures by the GP newspaper Australian Doctor.

The paper yesterday said 11 of the 22 super clinics Labor has promised to build if re-elected are in marginal seats, while five are in safe Coalition seats and five in safe Labor seats and one in a safe independent seat. One of the most recent pledges was the weekend promise by Ms Roxon to spend $7m on a super clinic in Coffs Harbour, in the NSW Central Coast seat of Cowper, which is held by the Nationals and would fall to Labor with just a 1.2 per cent swing. For the super clinics already operating, the Labor-held marginals include the Darwin seat of Solomon, which needs a swing of just over 0.2 per cent to change sides, and Macquarie, the country's second most vulnerable Labor seat with a margin of just 0.1 per cent.

Solomon was targeted just last Friday for the announcement of its second GP Super Clinic, to be built in the northern suburbs of Darwin -- a move that has alarmed the state's Australian Medical Association. Despite supporting the super clinic previously announced for nearby Palmerston, the AMA says the northern suburbs are well served and the new clinic is not needed.

AMA president Andrew Pesce said if the GP clinics had been located purely on the basis of need, then the government should be able to demonstrate empirically that was the case. "I'm not sure that's necessarily so, but I'm not going to dispute it because I haven't done the research," he said.

Dr Pesce said the taxpayer-funded clinics should only be located in areas where there was no possibility that local GPs could service community need.

NBN 'sandbags' marginal seats