Yankee bleak on Oz broadband market

In a Yankee Group seminar on the future of broadband in Australia, a local analyst with the telco industry researcher, denounced Australia's broadband service provider industry, claiming it lacked maturity and foresight compared with the rest of the world.

Dianne Northfield, senior analyst with Yankee Group Australia and New Zealand, did concede the market had shown some "encouraging" movements over the last year, citing the proliferation of 50 new carriers, broadband availability, and planned deployment of new cable services like ADSL, as chief examples.

However, she was quick to agree with comments Microsoft chairman Bill Gates made at his Australian .net strategy launch, showing his disappointment with Australia's low broadband access numbers. Gates also said he felt Australia had failed to take a global lead in broadband subscription.

"Gates may be right in criticising the Australian broadband technology environment," Northfield said. "We really are so far behind the US in terms of residential data access."

She added that access here was too expensive, slow to deploy and "geographically unsound". Broadband Internet pricing for installation and connection, based on two-year contracts, was higher when compared with the Asia Pacific, according to Northfield. However, Australia fared better on residential penetration.

Consumer uptake sat at 2.8 per cent of households here compared with 3.8 per cent in the US.

Broadband content was also an area in need of dire "reassessment", Northfield said, adding Australia "lacked focus" on Internet content provision, not only in its attempt to build an end-market, but in carving a name as a global broadband player. Secondly, she argued government content restrictions - like consumer usage caps - would deter companies from seeing the broadband and optical fibre infrastructure markets as business opportunities, thus limiting content availability to residents and businesses.

Northfield claimed service providers had also lost sight of the customer, obsessing over demand instead of building affordable, stable service. Quality service could only be achieved if providers focused on customer relationships, worked closely with technology partners, developed "pro-customer" pricing schedules,and built their brand. "People don't know what's out there. Providers are poor at educating the market. Service delivery must stay high on the industry agenda."

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