Getting the Most from High Speed Broadband in New Zealand: Investing in Productivity Growth

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1 Getting the Most from High Speed Broadband in New Zealand: Investing in Productivity Growth Report to Telecom, TelstraClear, & Vodafone FINAL December 2008 Copyright Castalia Limited. All rights reserved. Castalia is not liable for any loss caused by reliance on this document. Castalia is a part of the worldwide Castalia Advisory Group.

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3 Glossary Below we discuss some key concepts and distinctions used in this report. This is followed by a glossary explaining technical terms and acronyms we have used. Key Distinctions Used in this Report In thinking about the costs and benefits of different broadband development scenarios, we need to clearly distinguish between several key concepts: Incremental and absolute costs and benefits This report examines the incremental benefits from publicly funding high speed broadband over and above what the private sector is likely to provide. We focus on the incremental costs and benefits to New Zealanders from government intervention (what economists refer to as marginal costs and benefits). It is important to distinguish this concept of incremental costs and benefits from absolute costs and benefits. We do not question that high speed broadband will ultimately deliver significant benefits to New Zealand. However, absent any major structural barriers to investment, investment by private firms is likely to deliver many of these benefits without the need for government intervention. Thus to determine whether government action is warranted we need to focus on the incremental benefits government action can deliver, over and above what the market will deliver anyway, and the incremental costs. Coverage and take-up In this report we use the term coverage to mean the number of customers a broadband network passes that is, the number of customers who could connect to the network should they choose to do so. We use the term take-up to refer to the number of customers who actually chose to connect to and use a broadband service. This distinction is critical as the benefits delivered by any new investment in high speed broadband will depend primarily on the number of customers who choose to connect and use the new service. We would expect this number to be smaller than the number of customers covered by the new service. Application and use In thinking about the incremental benefits of high speed broadband, we need to clearly distinguish between the applications broadband services enable customers to access, and the uses customers have for those applications. In this report, the term applications refers to software packages or data formats which enable customers to transmit or receive certain types of information over broadband networks. Examples of applications include , voice over IP, videoconferencing, web browsing, video streaming, and digital television services (such as standard definition TV, and high definition TV). In contrast, uses of applications include eeducation, ehealth, and so on. In principle, eeducation might utilise a variety of applications, from web-browsing to access online learning materials, video streaming to view recorded lectures on a given topic, to video conferencing enabling real time interaction with remote

4 Glossary 1 Term teachers. Depending on the particular application(s) a given eeducation programme is based on, the user may require different levels of customer experience from their broadband connection, which in turn may imply different underlying access technologies (see below). Customer experience and access technologies A number of technologies can provide access to broadband services, with differing technical characteristics. These access technologies include ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL, Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC), fibre, 3G mobile technologies, and wireless technologies such as WiFi and WiMax. From the customer s point of view, however, what is important is generally not the technical specifications of the particular access technology they use, but the impact that it has on the customer s experience in accessing the applications they wish to use. For example, does the customer experience delays in sending an , or downloading content from the Internet? A delay of 500 mili-seconds will not be noticed in an transaction, but would be detrimental for a voice call or gaming experience. Is the customer able to use demand hungry applications such as video streaming, or video conferencing? Is the quality of Internet based voice or video communications acceptable? Does the customer experience interruptions to their service, that disrupt their use of applications? The impact of high speed broadband on the customer experience in terms of speed, reliability, and the range of applications the customer can use will determine the level of benefit from investment in new infrastructure. Definition ADSL ADSL2+ Broadband Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is a form of DSL, a data communications technology that enables broadband service over copper telephone lines. It does this by utilizing frequencies that are not used by a voice telephone call. Because phone lines vary in quality and were not originally engineered with DSL in mind, it can generally only be used over short distances, typically less than 4km. Depending on the particular standard used, ADSL can provide down load speeds of between 8 Mbps and 12 Mbps, and upload speeds of up to 1.8 Mbps. ADSL2+ is a newer, faster, standard of ADSL. ADSL2+ can provide download speeds of up to 24 Mbps, and upload speeds of up to 1 Mbps. The term broadband can have different meanings in different contexts. For the purposes of this report, we accept the OECD definition of broadband, which includes Internet access services that provide download speeds greater than 256 kbps to end users. In New Zealand a range of access technologies provide services that meet this definition, including DSL technologies, HFC and optical fibre, and a range of wireless services. 1 Some of the definitions in this glossary draw on material from

5 DSL FTTH or FTTP HDTV HFC High speed broadband Internet Protocol (IP) IPTV SDTV VDSL Digital Subscriber Line is a set of data transmission protocols that enable delivery of broadband services over existing copper telephone lines. Fibre to the home, or fibre to the premises. This refers to optical fibre networks laid to the boundary of the customer s premises. Fibre can deliver broadband services with very high speeds (both upstream and downstream). The distinction between fibre to the home and fibre to the premises is that the latter explicitly includes business as well as residential customers (although we use the two terms synonymously in this report). High definition television is a digital television broadcasting system, which provides much higher resolution (and so better picture quality) than traditional television systems. Hybrid Fibre Coax, the technology TelstraClear uses to deliver broadband services in Kapiti, Wellington, and Christchurch. In this report, we use the term high speed broadband to encompass a range of emerging access technologies that deliver download speeds of 10Mbps or greater. This includes VDSL, optical fibre, HFC using DOCSIS-2 standard, and fast wireless broadband. Generally, high speed broadband requires upgrade of the final link from the exchange to end users, to provide broadband speeds well in excess of those offered by existing technologies Internet protocol is a telecommunications protocol used for communicating data across a packet switched network. A key feature of Internet Protocol is that it breaks a data transmission (for example a voice signal) into a series of packets, each of which can be transmitted separately over the Internet, and reassembles these packets at the transmission s destination. This allows two-way communication without the need for a continuous open circuit, and so provides for much more efficient use of existing networks. IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is a system where a digital television service is delivered using Internet Protocol, usually over a broadband connection, instead of through traditional television broadcast formats. Standard Definition television (SDTV) is one of two of the new formats for television broadcasts (the other being high definition television, or HDTV). SDTV is a digital format that provides a high quality picture, very similar to that of a DVD. SDTV is a lower resolution picture than HDTV, but provides better image quality than today's TV screens, as well as stereo sound. The difference between SDTV and HDTV is that the signal on SDTV is more compressed than that of HDTV. As the digital signal is compressed, broadcasters can transmit five SDTV programs, whereas HDTV can only broadcast one. The picture definition of SDTV is also slightly lower than on HDTV. VDSL (Very High Bitrate DSL) is a DSL technology providing faster data transmission over a single copper telephone line. VDSL is capable of supporting high bandwidth applications such as HDTV,

6 as well as telephone services (Voice over IP) and general Internet access, over a single connection. In New Zealand VDSL/VDSL2+ could provide a maximum download speed of as much as 50 Mbps. VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol is a protocol for transmitting voice signals over the Internet. In effect this allows users to make telephone calls, from their computer or phone, at much lower cost than traditional telephone services. (The quality of the call may also be lower than traditional circuit-switched phone calls.) Skype is one example of a VoIP service.

7 Table of Contents 1 Introduction Focus of this Report Outline of this Report 2 2 Broadband is about Access to Applications An Overview of the Broadband Supply Chain Broadband Access Technologies The growing role of wireless in providing high speed broadband The impact of distance on DSL speeds The role of fibre in improving broadband service quality Access to Applications Residential users Business users Sector specific uses: eeducation and ehealth Applications and broadband speed requirements Applications: The future Conclusion 18 3 Private Benefits of Broadband: Willingness to Pay International Comparison of New Zealand Broadband Take Up Impact of the Telecommunications Service Obligation Trends in Internet Access in New Zealand Residential broadband usage Business broadband usage Revealed Demand for Applications Take Up of Broadband Packages Demand for access speeds Demand for data Demand for applications Regional Differences Conclusions on Willingness to Pay 32 4 The Counterfactual: What the Market will Provide Investment Plans of Service Providers 35

8 4.2 Projected Demand for Internet Based Applications What Users are Likely to Get under the Counterfactual 38 5 Incremental Benefits and Costs of Subsidising Broadband Proposed Broadband Policy: Wide Scale Roll-out of Fibre to the Premises Comparing Access to Applications under the Government s Proposed Policy to the Counterfactual Review of Benefits from the New Zealand Institute Analysis Conclusion on incremental benefits Incremental Costs of Policy Factual Costs for users and companies Wider economic costs Incremental costs of the Policy Factual Comparison of Costs and Benefits Policy Conclusions 54 6 Structuring Public Investment in Broadband Subsidies and Matching Policy Objectives Understanding what should be subsidised Fibre in New Zealand Public Investment Options Unit Subsidy The role of transitional subsidies Conclusions and Next Steps 65 Appendices Appendix A : International Trends in Fast Broadband Deployment 67 Appendix B : Understanding the Benefits and Costs from Public Investment in High Speed Broadband 71 Tables Table 2.1: Broadband Access Technology Speeds 9 Table 3.1: Percentage of Businesses with Broadband Connections, by Size (2006) 23 Table 3.2: Use of Applications and Implications for Access Requirements 28 Table 5.1: Public Investment in High Speed Broadband 40

9 Table 5.2: Estimated Annual Incremental Benefits from FTTH by Type of Use 42 Table 5.3: Components of Cost of Delivering FTTH 48 Table 5.4: Cost of Upgrading Internal House Wiring and Equipment 49 Table 5.5: Costs and Benefits of Broadband Scenarios Summary 51 Table 6.1: What do Policy Makers in New Zealand Perceive as the Problem? 57 Table 6.2: Comparison of Subsidy Options 63 Table 6.3: Practical Examples of Subsidy Options 63 Figures Figure 2.1: Overview of the Broadband Supply Chain 5 Figure 2.2: Impact of Distance on Service (DSL Access Technologies) 10 Figure 2.3: Delivery Architecture for Major Broadband Alternatives 11 Figure 2.4: Applications and Download Speed Requirements Residential 15 Figure 2.5: Applications and Download Speed Requirements Business 16 Figure 3.1: Broadband Subscribers per 100 Inhabitants (June 2008) 20 Figure 3.2: Broadband Subscribers per 100 Inhabitants by GDP, June Figure 3.3: Internet Subscriptions by Connection Type (March 2006 March 2008) 22 Figure 3.4: Broadband Subscribers by Size of Data Cap 26 Figure 3.5: Broadband Take Up by Region, Figure 3.6: Variation in Take Up between Urban and Rural 31 Figure 3.7: Reasons Given for No Broadband 32 Figure 3.8: Willingness to Pay for Fibre to the Home 33 Figure 4.1: Chorus Fibre to the Cabinet Solution 35 Figure 4.2: Development of the Counterfactual on the Supply Chain 39 Figure 5.1: Depiction of an FTTH Network 47 Figure 2: Topping Up 57 Figure 6.3: Public Investment Options 62 Figure 6.4: Transitional Subsidy 65

10 Boxes Box 3.1: Take up of High Speed Broadband in Other Countries 26 Box 4.1: Telecom s Broadband Download Service Targets Following Cabinetisation 36

11 Executive Summary The Government has focused its policy agenda on delivering a stronger economy and higher wages for New Zealanders. Better broadband for New Zealand is a core component of this agenda. The Government s objective is to enable at least 75 percent of the population to access high speed broadband enabling New Zealand to join other leading economies in the top half of the OECD. This report is about supporting the Government in achieving this aim. For a small economy New Zealand has a vibrant information technology industry, and considerable private investment is under way to improve the existing broadband infrastructure. Our analysis shows that already committed investment programs by the major infrastructure providers will deliver high speed broadband services, capable of download speeds ranging between 10 Mbps and 20 Mbps, to at least 80 percent of New Zealanders within the next few years. Considerable further work is needed to identify the true costs of extending these planned investments, to deliver a complete fibre network to the majority of New Zealanders. For New Zealand consumers to gain substantial benefits from fibre to the home, they must be willing to pay access prices that reflect the cost of rolling out fibre to the home, and in many cases will have to invest in upgrades to their home wiring and equipment. Available data shows that most broadband users are not currently willing to pay even for the faster broadband packages that are available now. There is considerable uncertainty about how much demand for high speed broadband there will be in the future, and when this will emerge. This uncertainty is behind the current, low, level of investment in fibre to the home. The Government s initiative to subsidise, or stimulate, the drive for fibre to the home is in itself a clear signal that such a roll-out will not occur on a purely commercial basis for some time to come. The Government is therefore considering a range of interventions to promote greater use of fast broadband. This report provides a framework for examining various intervention options that will deliver the best outcomes for New Zealanders. The framework is based on: Developing a thorough understanding of the supply chain from the suppliers of broadband applications to users, and of the costs and constraints that impact on our utilisation of existing and emerging Internet applications. If New Zealand is to realise the desired benefits from high speed broadband, we must take an end-to-end view of the supply of broadband services, and not focus solely on the last mile infrastructure. There is little to be gained from investing in a world class local access service, if constraints elsewhere in the supply chain prevent end users from seeing the benefits of that investment Developing a clear view on the existing and emerging Internet applications, and the broadband technologies which are able to support those applications. We emphasise that broadband is only valuable because of the applications it allows users to access, and the quality of user experience it delivers. Hence, to assess any policy intervention, we need to understand how that intervention would alter the range of applications that customers use, and how these applications are used. Our analysis shows that most existing and emerging i

12 applications would not require the speed and consistency made possible by fibre to the premises Developing a thorough understanding of the market counterfactual: the level of investment in different kinds of broadband infrastructure which would take place on the commercial basis, without any further government intervention. A key challenge for the Government will be to ensure that policies to encourage high speed broadband do not displace private investment in improved services, but instead build on existing and planned investments. Overall, we conclude that following the considerable improvements already being undertaken the widespread roll-out of fibre to the home would deliver only a small improvement in New Zealanders ability to use the existing and emerging Internet applications over the market counterfactual. It is clear that most mass market applications which do not require consumers to invest in very high cost specialist user equipment also do not require the very high speeds supported by fibre to the premises. This is consistent with the market reality of New Zealanders low demonstrated willingness to pay for additional speed and reliability. Our analysis of the speeds required by consumer applications suggests that the costs of a policy which immediately subsidises a widespread roll-out of fibre to the home would likely exceed its benefits. Instead, much of the economic benefit attributed to fibre to the premises could be captured through targeted deployment of fibre to businesses, schools, and hospitals rather than through a full deployment of FTTH to retail users. This does not mean that there is nothing the Government can do to help New Zealanders get the most benefit from high speed broadband, or that Government support for fibre to the home may not be appropriate at some time in the future. Rather, our analysis leads us to suggest a flexible approach to developing a long-term partnership between the industry and the Government, with Government investment targeted to those areas the market will not address. We believe this approach will achieve the desired productivity and social outcomes in the most cost effective manner. In particular, while the market will deliver high speed broadband access to most New Zealanders, there are some key problems that the market will not address. These include: Low willingness to pay for high speed broadband, and uncertainty around how this will evolve User equipment and wiring, which may significantly constrain the quality of service users are able to experience The cost of international data capacity and peering is higher than many New Zealanders are willing to pay. The cost of international capacity will need to come down (or willingness to pay for high speed data transmissions increase) for New Zealand to obtain many of the potential benefits from high speed broadband, and Continuing slow service for rural users. Current private investment plans will still leave around 20 percent of users in rural and provincial parts of the country unable to access high speed broadband. Some form of public-private partnership is required whenever a government wants the industry to deliver services or investments which are not commercially viable, but which the government believes to have a greater social value than indicated by consumers private willingness to pay. The challenge for the Government is to structure a publicprivate partnership which builds on commercial incentives facing the private sector, on ii

13 changes in technologies and demand patterns, and on New Zealanders evolving ability and willingness to pay, in a way which delivers the best outcomes from the Government s contribution to the partnership. The research undertaken for this paper leads us to the view that there is no single silver bullet to ensure that high speed broadband makes the maximum contribution to New Zealand s productivity. The detailed design of any subsidy programme will depend on the specific objectives the Government intends to achieve. More work is needed to clearly formulate detailed objectives for Government intervention in the supply of broadband, given the growing understanding of the end-to-end supply chain. For example, the greatest initial uplift in productivity could come from building on current broadband infrastructure improvement programs to helping low income urban residents take advantage of the existing broadband infrastructure, before devoting public resources to investment in additional infrastructure. Any future partnership between the Government and the industry will need to clearly define the services to be provided and the key standards of performance. The approach that is adopted will have important consequences for the costs of the scheme, the incentives faced by service providers, and the strategy for monitoring and verifying performance. The partnership will also need to be structured in a way that minimises governance risks, and ensures that subsidies do not become unnecessarily entrenched. We recommend that the Government and the industry work together to address these questions, and to lay the foundations for an effective partnership that will deliver the best outcome for New Zealand. iii

14 1 Introduction The Government is looking to achieve a step change to significantly increase New Zealand s productivity, leading to a stronger economy and higher wages. Market commentators widely view high speed broadband as an enabling technology with the potential to make New Zealand more productive. It is not difficult to imagine that, if most of us had ready access to very fast data transfers, our economy and community could be transformed. Previous studies have argued that widespread deployment of high speed broadband would deliver significant economic benefits for New Zealand. For example, a recent study by the New Zealand Institute estimated that the economic benefits from widespread access to fast broadband would be in the range of $2.7 to $4.4 billion per annum. These benefits derive from a combination of cost savings, productivity improvements and access to new opportunities. Fibre to the home is often regarded as the best available technology for delivering reliable, fast broadband. For this reason, the economic benefits of widespread access to fast broadband are commonly identified with the roll-out of fibre to most homes in New Zealand. At the same time, it is clear that users are not yet prepared to pay for the roll-out of fibre to the home if they were, there is little doubt that New Zealand s information technology sector would have responded to the profit opportunities. Where users are prepared to pay, the private sector is delivering considerable investment in extending and improving broadband services to New Zealanders. For example, it is worth noting that New Zealand is close to completing the fibre to the node roll-out on a purely commercial basis, while the Australian Government is in the early stages of procuring such a roll-out through a massive subsidy program. The Government has indicated its intention to promote the use of fast broadband in New Zealand. In particular, it has proposed to subsidise investment in fibre to the home. 1.1 Focus of this Report Castalia was jointly commissioned by Telecom, TelstraClear, and Vodafone to consider policy options for achieving the Government s objective of raising productivity through greater use of fast broadband in New Zealand. The objective of this report is to contribute to the formulation of detailed policies in this area. In particular, we were asked to consider what can be done to achieve a genuine partnership between the Government and the private sector. Some form of public-private partnership is required whenever a Government wants the industry to deliver services or investments which are not commercially viable, but which the Government believes to have a greater social value than indicated by consumers private willingness to pay. However, the devil in such partnerships is in the detail. The challenge is particularly great when the partnership involves long-lived investment, such as fibre to the premises. In deciding how to structure the partnership and what its contribution should be, the Government needs to consider: The timing of investment. The more the publicly-supported investment runs ahead of consumer needs, the more the Government will end up paying for the same results Technology risks. By supporting any particular type of investment, the Government would inevitably be crowding out private investments in 1

15 competing technologies. The public-private partnership needs to be explicitly structured to minimise this risk Trade-off between new investment and better utilisation of the existing infrastructure. At present, many New Zealanders who have physical access to fast broadband technologies either cannot afford or see little value in utilising those technologies. This lack of take-up would not be fixed through a roll-out of a better infrastructure. Overall, a well-designed public-private partnership would build on, rather than distort, the industry s commercial responses to consumer needs, and would aim to achieve the greatest social benefit for the least fiscal cost. For this reason, the analysis in this report focuses on developing a clear understanding of what the market will be delivering in the absence of any Government intervention, and how the outcomes from possible interventions would differ from the market outcomes. The industry in New Zealand is making significant investments in broadband infrastructure, which will deliver large gains in service quality and create new opportunities for users over the next few years. Added to this, improvements in compression technologies mean that existing access networks will be able to deliver a much wider range of applications, more quickly, than is currently the case. To be able to analyse the incremental costs and benefits of possible Government interventions, we: Develop a detailed picture of Internet applications which consumers use now, or may use in the foreseeable future, and establish which broadband technologies are required to support those applications Review the investment programs of the market participants to establish what will be happening to the consumers ability to use various current and emerging applications over the next few years. This review is based on the committed investment programs currently under way Compare the consumers ability to use various applications under the market counterfactual with their ability to use these applications under various policy intervention options. 1.2 Outline of this Report The remainder of this report is structured as follows: In the following section we provide an overview of the broadband technologies that are currently available, or are likely to become available in the foreseeable future Section 3 reviews available data on New Zealanders take up and use of Internet access, and broadband in particular. Based on the available data we draw conclusions on users willingness to pay for high speed broadband, which in turn tells us how users value the private benefits to them from high speed broadband In section 4 we describe the counterfactual. We base our counterfactual on the extent and type of broadband services that are likely to be available to users five years from now, drawing on known investment plans of New Zealand s large telecommunications service providers 2

16 Section 5 describes the factual of government intervention. This section focuses on the proposal to subsidise the roll-out of fibre to 75 percent of homes in New Zealand. In this section we assess the incremental costs and benefits of this factual compared to the counterfactual, and identify opportunities to enhance the net gains from intervention In Section 6 we discuss how best to deliver a government subsidy for fast broadband, drawing on international lessons from public-private partnerships. We identify key questions the government would need to answer in order to design an effective subsidy for high speed broadband. 3

17 2 Broadband is about Access to Applications Ultimately, any discussion about the economic effects of broadband infrastructure investments is about users ability to access applications, and the quality of their experience in doing so. This concept underpins our analysis: consumers do not care about how the network is configured, which technology is used, or about what else the technology can do, as long as they can use all the applications they want at the level of reliability they prefer. In this section we: Provide an overview of the various elements involved in delivering Internet applications to end users, of which the access network is just one component Review the broadband access technologies available in New Zealand now, and the increasing role that wireless technologies will play in the future, highlighting the download and upload speeds that are currently being achieved in New Zealand, and Discuss what various access technologies mean for the Internet applications used by households and businesses. 2.1 An Overview of the Broadband Supply Chain Telecommunications networks are, in effect, a transport network for voice and data services. Suppliers of a wide range of applications use these networks to deliver their services to users. The quality of service experienced by users depends not only on the network itself, but on the technical characteristics of the application being supplied at the supplier s end, and of the user s wiring and equipment at the customer end. In addition, the transport network itself comprises a number of components. Figure 2.1 provides a simplified view of this broadband supply chain. The figure is based on the network structure for an incumbent telecommunications provider, which supplies broadband using a DSL access technology. Clearly the specific network components of the supply chain will vary across different types of provider and different network technologies, particularly in the local access network, but the main elements are generally the same. 4

18 Figure 2.1: Overview of the Broadband Supply Chain Modem Local IP cloud International gateway International backhaul Local backhaul Core network Customer equipment Internal wiring Key: Optical fibre Street cabinet Local access network Copper Internal wiring Last mile Problems in any single element of the chain, or in the way they interconnect to deliver services, can compromise the quality of service customers experience in accessing and using Internet applications. The policy debate about investment in fibre to the home has focused on the bottlenecks created by the last mile part of the supply chain. In reality, there are other constraints in the supply chain, which may have an even greater effect on customer experience. The kinds of improvements in customer experience which would be needed to achieve the desired increase in New Zealand s productivity growth will require a broader focus on constraints across the whole supply chain. The Government and the industry will need to work together to address these constraints. Customer end hardware The hardware through which users access the Internet affects the quality they experience in using Internet applications. The following elements are particularly important at the customer end: Users equipment computers or other equipment such as games consoles and televisions: Most new computers should be able to keep up with the very fast connection speeds fibre to the home would provide, although this does depend on the type of application. 2 Computers more than two to three years old may have a problem delivering Internet applications at these speeds. New Zealand s stock of computers is relatively old, and it is unlikely that improvements in customer experience of broadband can be achieved without a significant updating of the national computer fleet 2 For video applications, such as IP television or video streaming, the main constraint for computers currently on the market is the speed of the video card. Many new computers are configured to provide a high resolution picture. Some video cards are not fast enough to display high resolution video pictures and give a smooth viewing experience. Users can fix this by simply changing the computer s display settings to a lower resolution. In many cases this will not reduce the quality of the users experience, as most video content currently available is not high definition. 5

19 Internal wiring (or wireless access), from the point of connection with the broadband provider s network to the user s equipment: The internal wiring in most New Zealand houses uses copper wires, designed for voice telephony, which will continue to limit the speeds users experience, even with fibre to the home. Wireless access points or modems can provide much faster speeds within the home than copper wires, but will themselves have an upper limit. 3 Interference from other sources, as well as relative positioning within the home, can reduce the quality of service provided by wireless networks below their theoretical maximum. The local access network The speed and quality of service the local access network provides from the local exchange to the customer s premises depends on the access technology in use (discussed in more detail in section 2.2 below). Backhaul and the core network Local backhaul and the core network were designed to support the pattern of use typical of web browsing, that is a short burst of data flowing primarily in one direction, or continued streaming of relatively narrow band applications. They were not designed to cope with many users simultaneously accessing sustained bandwidth-hungry services, such as video-on-demand. Backhaul is generally scalable, but any plans for deploying fast broadband will need to account for the costs of increasing backhaul and core capacity. International peering New Zealand s main connection to the rest of the world is the Southern Cross cable. The cost of capacity on this international link is higher than many New Zealanders are willing to pay. Alongside this, under international peering arrangements, the cost of transmitting data depends on the balance of traffic. A country that, on balance, exports data receives a net payment for this. Countries that are net importers of data must pay. New Zealand is a net importer of data, which increases the cost of Internet use to New Zealanders. Interconnection Internet service providers must interconnect with each other so that their customers can exchange data. For example, for a TelstraClear customer to access a web service provided by a customer of Telecom s Xtra service, TelstraClear and Telecom must have an interconnection arrangement covering Internet services. The normal standard for Internet interconnection is best efforts. That is, service providers undertake to use their best efforts to deliver data quickly, but with the understanding that from time to time bits of data may be delayed or even lost. Up until recently this standard has been sufficient to deliver available Internet applications to an acceptable quality of service. For applications such as or file downloads, a delay in transmitting some packets of data that make up the whole typically has no noticeable effect from the user s point of view. However, this is changing. Some applications now delivered over the Internet require low levels of latency (that is, little or no delay in transmitting pieces of data). Examples include video-conferencing over the Internet and high quality voice-over-internet services. A best efforts interconnection standard cannot guarantee an acceptable quality of service for these applications. 3 For example the Thomson TG123g modem supported by Telecom can deliver speeds of up to 54Mbps. This is significantly faster than currently available residential broadband connections, but considerably slower than the maximum speed fibre to the home could provide. 6

20 New Zealand Internet services providers are currently negotiating a new set of interconnection standards for voice over the Internet and other low latency applications. These new standards will include procedures for interconnected providers to control for the quality of interconnection service, to give priority to low latency applications such as voice over the Internet. However, New Zealand service providers will continue experiencing latency problems with international service providers. Intellectual property and anti-siphoning laws Leaving the infrastructure issues aside, it is unlikely that ISPs will be able to deliver IPTV or video-on-demand services without a change to the market structure that currently determines access to content. Sky and other television broadcasters control premium content in New Zealand. While Sky does wholesale content to other providers, it has a lengthy satellite lease and has no incentives proactively to push content onto a new platform such as broadband. Similarly, development of any new digital platform by TVNZ (supported by the Government) would diminish incentive to make that content available over the broadband. The Government is currently undertaking a major review of the policy and regulation of digital content. 4 This work will recommend detailed options on a range of topics, including the existing arrangements for acquiring, packaging, wholesaling, retailing, and transmitting content. 2.2 Broadband Access Technologies There is no single definition for broadband. For the purposes of this report, we accept the OECD definition of broadband, which includes Internet access services that provide download speeds greater than 256 kbps to end users. 5 We distinguish between broadband services and high speed broadband, which we define as any service providing download speeds of 10 Mbps or more. A range of different types of access technologies can provide broadband services, including: Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) DSL is a family of access technologies that use existing copper infrastructure to deliver broadband services. DSL technologies include: ADSL1 and ADSL2+, which Telecom and others currently use to deliver broadband services, and VDSL, which Telecom and others will implement through Telecom s cabinetisation programme. TelstraClear recently announced that it is now offering VDSL2 to businesses, and will have this service available in 14 centres by the end of 2008 Wireless in New Zealand, wireless broadband services include Vodafone s broadband offering, Woosh services, and various localised WiFi networks. 4 5 The Ministry of Culture and Heritage and Ministry of Economic Development are undertaking this work. OECD Broadband Subscriber Criteria, accessible on the world wide web at (accessed December 2008). The OECD has acknowledged that these current criteria will need to be reconsidered and possibly changed, as new applications appear which require faster connections than the lowest-speed broadband connections can support. (see Broadband Growth and Policies In OECD Countries, OECD

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