Panel: Broadband bundles will give industry a boost

Broadband take-up in Australia continues to be plagued by a lack of content, services and last mile access, industry leaders say.

While speakers at the broadband breakfast held in Sydney last Friday maintained different opinions on what drives broadband demand, all agreed Australia's adoption of broadband services will be sluggish until last mile alternatives are strengthened, content is expanded and Telstra unbundles the local loop.

CEO of Comindico and panel speaker John Stuckey said that Australia's lack of competition across the last mile of the network had been a major impediment to the general uptake of broadband.

"Unless there is a good last mile alternative, you won't get broadband," he said.

Richard Vincent, director of RequestDSL and Neighbourhood Cable, extended this further, saying that for any company to be a successful broadband player, they will need "money, content and last mile".

The Government's recently announced Broadband Advisory Group, which meets for the first time later this month, was also given mixed reviews by the panel.

Although the panel speakers admitted the Government's new group is a step in the right direction, Stuckey believes broadband uptake has to be driven by market players and the general community.

"You won't get real changes out of the committee," he said. "The changes have to come from the market."

Stuckey said local councils could play a part in pushing community demand for broadband services. A town councillor himself, Stuckey said many other councillors are now seeing broadband access as one of many services a community should be able to provide.

"The council sees broadband as valuable a utility as water -- users should be able just to turn it on. The issue is getting the community to bond together and do it," he said.

The panel differed on what would be broadband's "killer app".

For Vincent, broadband services will be driven by a combination of content and high capacity, symmetrical network services. These, he says, will be necessary for video on demand and telephony services over broadband.

"The capability to pull down video material whenever they [consumers] want is a key driver," he said. "Pay TV is not what people want. Video on demand is an à la carte menu."

Vincent said that, according to his company's research, consumers would be willing to spend around $105 - $110 per month to receive video on demand, Internet and telephony services.

Tom Kennedy, managing director of Beyond Online and a member of the Federal Government's Broadband Advisory Group, says Internet content will play a huge role in the uptake of broadband.

Comindico's Stuckey says the key to broadband is providing a bundle of services.

Once voice-over-IP (VoIP) is included in the package, service providers could charge as much as $185,with local call costs included, he said.

As a whole, the panel also urged ISPs that currently provide dial-up services to look into providing an alternative range of services and bundled packages.

"If they [ISPs] are only providing $35 per month dial-up services, their revenue will deteriorate because of someone who provides the whole bundle [of services]," Stuckey said.

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