The Internet though gives us instant access to far away people. I can talk by Skype with friends on the other side of the world, exchange emails in a moment, share a Google Doc.
Twitter tells me within moments about earthquakes in Chile and snowfalls in the South of France.
And for more serious business uses the Internet, and good access to large quantities of high-speed data is crucial.
At the moment our international Internet traffic is served through the Southern Cross undersea cable:
The network is almost 30,500 km in length, including 28,900km of submarine cable incorporating around 500 optical repeaters (placed every 40-70km to boost signals), and 1,600km of terrestrial cable. There are nine cable stations (two each in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and the US mainland, and one in Fiji) and an access point in San Jose, California.
We Kiwis live with data caps. For instance: my Internet plan allows 20Gb of traffic per month. If we exceed 20Gb before the rollover date then every extra Gb costs another $3. We think several times before downloading a full-length video, or a large software update.
But news came this week of a plan for a new, additional undersea cable. Pacific Fibre plan to raise almost 1 billion dollars to lay a new, more direct cable that will give us plenty of bandwidth:
The New Zealand and Australian governments are investing heavily in fibre to the home. Those investments will be futile if our international bandwidth remains the same. Right now 90% of our internet access requires international connections — addressing international bandwidth is paramount.
The prices New Zealanders and Australians pay [for Internet bandwidth] are high compared to international benchmarks.
The face of computing is changing. Next generation devices, like Netbooks and the iPad, are providing cheaper entry points but will consume significantly more bandwidth — data (including photos, movies and emails) is not stored locally, but instead is stored remotely in a ‘cloud’, accessed via international broadband.
Unless we address the international bandwidth issue, New Zealanders will not get affordable access to services and devices increasingly common in the rest of the world.
Pacific Cable plan to have the new capacity in place by 2013. That’s only an ambitious 3 years away. They plan to
provide inexpensive, unlimited, ultra-fast broadband for all.
More, cheaper bandwidth and speed make all kinds of applications possible:
- Lightweight fun: watching sports matches, movies or TV.
- Education opportunities: virtual visits from experts, or collaborations with distant learners or colleagues.
- Video consultations with medical experts.
- Sharing huge files, such as scientific data, movies or very high resolution images.
There are already hundreds of possibilities for using highs-peed high-bandwidth applications, and many more will become evident before this cable is in place.
This is an exciting project, with the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of Kiwis. I say: Good on you!