Friday, March 26, 2010

Whole of Australian Government Mobile Tender

The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a Request for Tender for mobile phones, smartphones, wireless broadband modems and services for all of the Australian Government. There is a 1.4 Mbyte document available with the details.
The RFT covers:
  • Mobile Carriage;
  • Mobile Devices: including mobile handsets, smartphones and mobile broadband modems;
  • Mobile Accessories; and
  • Associated Services.
There is a requirement for one or more service providers to provide Telecommunication Commodities, Carriage and Associated Services to the Commonwealth. It is expected that the outcome of this RFT will be a panel accessible by all Agencies.

The Commonwealth aims to establish an arrangement that is flexible, efficient and responsive to changing technology and business requirements. ...
Timeframe for Delivery 3 years plus 2 separate options to extend for 12 months on each occasion. ...

From: Request for Tender for a Whole of Australian Government Panel of Telecommunications Commodities, Carriage and Associated Services, FIN10/AGI002, Department of Finance and Deregulation, 25-Mar-2010

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Progressive display of electronic documents

Faster networks, such as Google's 1 G fibre to the home trial, will not necessarily produce a better Internet service. I suggest we need to design electronic documents, including web pages and videos, to display just what the user needs at a particular time. A by-product of this is that will allow a slower network to be used and allow networks to cope with congestion and faults better.

Providing more data to the user will not necessarily provide more information, it may just increase confusion with irrelevant details. For education, it is often better to provide a simple schematic diagram, rather than a high resolution image. Pushing data on students does not help them. The e-learning materials for my 120 hour "Green Technology Strategies" course consist of only a few hundred kilobytes of data. There are gigabytes of extra readings, audio and video, but the essentials are a the equivalent of 100 pages of text. Even that is provided to the students, progressively over 12 weeks. I asked the students if they would like all the material at once at the beginning, so they could read ahead, but most said they preferred it week by week. Other materials are provided so the students can explore them, when the feel the need. In education-speak this is "mentored and collaborative learning", with some aspects similar to the Montessori method. It is not providing large amounts of information which are important in these learning techniques, but that materials and people, are to hand when needed. One of the educational areas which further work is in teaching students how to cope with an overload of information.

Similarly in medicine, irrelevant detail does not necessarily help. My doctor does not look at the detailed imaging provided by MRI, CAT, ultrasound and other scans. They read the brief text reports prepared from these by specialists. It might make me feel better if they were to examine these in a 3D system and draw circles around areas using a light pen, but it would not improve the medicine delivered.

This can also apply with web pages. Providing a large complex document can overwhelm the reader, whereas a simple introduction and set of links to details can ease them into the topic.

One application where progressive display can help is with smart phones. These devices have small screens, slower links and distracted users. So providing large amounts of material does not help technically nor for the user. The current approach is to create special applications and documents for mobile users. I suggest we can redesign web documents to automatically allow for this.

One simple case is web images. The common web image formats (GIF, PNG and JPEG) all now allow for progressive image display. That is the image file is created so that a low resolution version can be displayed first, increasing in detail as more data is provided. These formats could be used by smarter web browsers to display images in the appropriate resolution for the display device and available bandwidth. Web servers can automatically convert images to progressive formats as required.

Another progressive technique is in the creation of web pages. Web designed web pages and web site allow the user to get an introduction and overview and then select more details. Most web pages will begin to render before all data has arrived. If the important information is at the top of the page, the user can select a menu option without waiting for the rest. The same can be done with some PDF documents. This can't be done with most ebook formats and you have to wait for the whole ebook to download before you can read any of it.

Some new video formats similarly allow lower resolution previews and streaming of the start of the video, without having to wait for it all.

These techniques could make the slower networks most of us will have for the foreseeable future more usable, without having to wait for gigabit networks. Even with gigabit networks, being able to get just the information you need will be a boon, without being overwhelmed with data.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple iPad in 1996

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm. I had in mind a 3:4 format screen, whereas the iPad has a wider screen.
"Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs) are the ... successor to the primitive Personal Digital Assistants, notebook PCs, radio pagers and mobile phones of 1996. ...

Larger PADDs ... dimensions of a B5 sheet of paper, by 1 cm thick ... touch sensitive screen covering the whole upper surface, which is also a high resolution (2000 x 2000 pixel by 16 million colour) screen. All PADDs have video and audio built in and can operate as what a 1996 person would know as a mobile phone, radio, TV and video cam-corder. ...

The QWERTY keyboard, in its virtual form is still in use for data entry. ..."

From: Australia: The Networked Nation, Tom Worthington, 7 February 1996
However, in retrospect I think a smaller device with a screen about twice the size of an iPhone would be better (the size of smaller PADDs in Star Trek). This is the size of the screen on the smaller Amazon Kindle. It would be about 125 × 88 mm and make a passport (ISO B7) size device which would be easier to hold in one hand. Apple might be reluctant to make a device this small, as it would compete with the iPhone. Kept in a large pocket or handbag, it could be used as a phone via a Bluetooth device (resembling a Star Trek communicator).

My prediction for resolution of the screen was a bit high at 2000 x 2000 pixels and the iPad lacks a camera. The prediction it would run Linux was almost right, with the iPad using a version of Unix (but Linus Torvalds has not got the Nobel prize yet).

I got the bit about online storage right: "Data is stored safely on servers, either owned by the employee's company or a contracted service provider. Data is downloaded as required over the network." My prediction for processing power was a bit low: "equivalent to about four 1996 era Intel Pentium processors", but memory was far too low: "(64 megabytes) to hold the data the user needs immediately".

Apple are a bit late with the iPad as I predicted it would be released in 2005. Some other predictions went better, with Senator Helen Coonan, when Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts commenting on the telecommunications predictions. One prediction which is now coming true, and the current government will be less happy with, is that fibre optic cable to households will prove uneconomic and be overtaken by wireless.

The bit about "Politicians have learnt to be careful about heavy handed attempts at net regulation." is about to come true with the predicted "Internet Party" forming as the Australian branch of The Pirate Party.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wide Beam High Gain 3G Antenna

G Spotter AntennaGeorge Bray mentioned he has got good results using a G Spotter Antenna for 3G wireless access. This antenna costs about ten times as much as the Panorama Data Card Antenna I have and I wonder what is in the black box of the G Spotter.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

3 make it difficult to buy products

Having destroyed my Huawei D100 3G Wireless Router I attempted to buy another one from 3. This has proved very difficult. I had assumed as I knew exactly the product I wanted and was to buy it from the same company as the previous unit, this would be easy. I imagined just waling in and saying "please sell me another one of these". The store I asked at had none and could not check with other 3 stores, as different types of stores are on different stock systems. I tried calling 3 but only their national number is listed on their web site and I then had to get through a voice response system which assumed I wanted a phone or Internet service. The operator I eventually talked to had never heard of "Canberra". I had to explain it was in the "Australian Capital Territory" which was abbreviated to "ACT". Theythen connected me to a phone line which did not answer. It looks like I have to visit each 3 Stiore and ask for the product.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Huawei Wireless Modem

Having accidentally destroyed my router by plugging in the wrong power supply, I was considering replacing it with the Huawei E5832 wireless modem. This battery powered pocket size unit is recharged by a USB cable (thus making it difficulty to plug in the wrong charger). The unit is relatively new but has got at least one good review. The advantages of over the usual USB dongle 3G modem are that you do not need to configure the computer for the modem, it has a built in firewall for added protection and can be shared over the WiFi with several computers. Also you can place it in a location for good 3G service away from the computer (perhaps put in a waterproof container on a pole with a solar panel to make a WiFi hotspot).

The disadvantages are that the unit does not have an Ethernet socket, only USB, so it can't be directly plugged into some devices, such as a TiVo and it can only be configured with a Windows PC. Usually a router is configured using a web interface from a host computer, but it seems this unit requires a custom program, which has only been provided for Microsoft Windows. This last restriction perhaps could be got around with some trial and error.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Destroyed my router with netbook power supply

Huawei D100 3G RouterA few minutes ago I plugged the 20 Volt power supply from my Kogan netbook into my Huawei D100 3G Wireless Router. The router is designed to run on 12 volts and as a result no longer works. Can anyone suggest how to fix the router (it is possible just a component in the power regulator has been destroyed)? I know I am not the first to plug a Kogan power supply into this model router by mistake (one black plug looks much like another). More generally we need some standards for power plugs to stop this happening. One solution would be to USB.

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Wireless Our Broadband Future

Greetings from "Realising Our Broadband Future" forum in Sydney (you can participate online). Stephen Wilson, CIO, NSW Department of Education and Training, described how wireless will be provided on school grounds. There seems to be little point in the school sector building a wireless network. Instead, I have already suggested, NBN Co. provide wireless as part of their network.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

NBN CEO on Our Broadband Future

Greetings from the Realising Our Broadband Future forum at University of NSW in Sydney (you can participate remotely). Mike Quigley, Chief Executive Officer of NBN Co., has been explaining that the National Broadband Network is installing fibre to the premises for demanding applications, such as video. He argued that wireless broadband could not provide this due to limited spectrum (in fact the conference organisers asked deli gates to limit their access o the WiFi in the room). The NBN CEO suggests they will need a couple of KA Band satellites for remote areas of Australia (which brings us back to AusSat). NBN will also provide an analog telephone adaptor.

Most of what Mike Quigley said I agree with. However, wireless devices do not necessarily needs as much bandwidth as fixed devices. When watching video on your mobile phone you need much less bandwidth than when watching on a regular TV. This is because the mobile device has a much smaller screen and so needs less data. Similarly, mobile web applications need less bandwidth because people are busy doing other things when they are out and about. Applications in the "cloud" can summarise the data and present just what the user wants to know then and there. A good example of how this has surprised telecommunications companies are SMS and e-mail. These are very plain text based services which take little bandwidth, but a very popular

In my view, the NBN will need to evolve to incorporate wireless. This might be done at, or near the premises. Under current schemes, the NBN will deliver fibre to the home. The customer will then likely attach a wireless router to the NBN termination. As a result the last 10m of the NBN will be wireless. However, this last 10m, which is the most important to the customer will not be managed by the NBN and will waste capacity. Each premise will have a separate wireless device, which will compete for bandwidth. I suggest that instead the NBN should provide a terminating device with wireless built in. That wireless can then be used by the customer in their own home, but also shared with their neighbours. This will make a cheaper, more resilient system. If the home owner's NBN link fails, they can automatically switch over to use the neighbours. If they need more than one node provides, they can use several. If a smart meter or burglar alarm is installed in their hoe, ti will take no configuration, as it can use the standard wireless. Similar wireless telephony can use the wireless network.

Next is: Jeffrey Cole, Director USC Annenberg School.

Senator Kate Lundy will then be launching my book "Green Technology Strategies" in her speech. But first the Minister for Communications will introduce Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

EduRoam: Using your uni id to access wireless elsewhere

ANU have signed up to Eduroam, a global co-operative that allows you to use your ANU user-id on wireless networks at other universities around the world. Has anyone tried it?

One catch with the service is that it doesn't work at ANU for ANU ids. That is, if you are at ANU with a ANU user-id, you can't use EduRoam. So there does not seem to be any easy way to try it, before travelling.

I tried using CSIRO's EduRoam (their ICT Centre is in the Computer Science and IT Building at ANU), but could not get it to work with my ANU user id.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unifying NBN fibre and wireless networks

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has announced it a trial of Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile wireless technology in Australia with Optus during 2010. LTE offers up to 340 Mbps, but more significantly should make it easier to integrate with other wireless and wired broadband networks, such as the National Broadband Network. LTE is claimed to be compatible with WiMax broadband wireless, which the Australian government is funding to fill in some urban broadband black spots. LTE uses IPV6 and this could make it easier to provide services across networks without ad-hoc arrangements for levels of service and security. By using the network more effectivly, this might reate a better and cheaper service than by simply adding more bandwith. LTE also has an option for providing TV like services. What is not clear is if it can be adapted to the needs of regional Australia, with a low population density. It may be that CSIRO's "broadband to the bush" could be combined with LTE.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

EduRoam wireless network for global education

The Australian National University has activated EduRoam on its Canberra campus. Staff and students of participating particapating EduRoam institutions can use the ANU wireless service and those with an ANU user id can use wireless at the other campuses around the world.

Setting up for EduRoam is a little complicated as it uses 802.1x authentication (PEAPv1 with EAP-GTC). Another complication is that EduRoam doesn't work for locals, that is the EduRoam system is just for visitors, you have to remember to use your own university wireless system when at your own institution. Also the user id is different when you are roaming, as you have to include the domain name for your own institution (so "", rather than just "myid").

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Monday, November 09, 2009

WiFi Share Service to Supplement NBN

One person responded to my posting about 3G data speeds being lower than the 14 Mbit/s theoretical maximum:
... don't come to London ... average speeds of 4.8 kbps (yes that's 4800 bits per second) download and about 3k6 bps upload.

It's actually faster to get on a tube ... and deliver your message personally ...
It may help to try an external antenna. I got an omnidirectional one for $30. Or you could try a more expensive directional one to try and get to a less congested cell tower.

However, given the density of network users in London, you might be better off with something like Fon, which allows you to share others wired broadband connection via WiFi. This might make a useful supplement to the NBN. The idea is that the householder shares part of their WiFi with the neighbours and visitors.

The Fon hardware uses Linux and has provision for user enhancements. It might be interesting to have this type of system supplement the NBN.

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Wireless rival to NBN in Tasmania

This morning I talked to Andy Muirhead on ABC Radio Hobart about wireless broadband options. Tasmania is getting the first National Broadband Network home connections next July. But Optus has announced 60 new 3G towers to double their wireless broadband coverage in Tasmania (which is currently confined mostly to the road between Hobart and Launceston). There was concern that people would sign up to a low monthly wireless broadband plan and be locked in for 12 months, too late to see the NBN provides a better deal.

On radio I explained that the 3G wireless broadband was better for people who moved from place to place (including renters). Wireless 3G is good for email and web browsing, but not so good for downloading the gigabytes of data in a full length feature film.

In theory the 3G can provide 14 Mbit/s which compares well with ADSL2+ at 24 Mbit/s and the promised 100 Mbit/s for the NBN. But in reality the 3G operates at tens or hundreds of kilobits per second depending on location and load on the network. I use the Virgin 3G (reseller of the Optus service) and this works reliably throughout Canberra, except in my lounge room. On a recent trip to Tasmania the Virgin 3G broadband worked in Hobart and Launceston, but nowhere I went in between. In addition the included amount of data tends to be lower for wireless than fixed services and the excess data charges larges (10 to 100 times larger).

Andy asked what Tasmania could do with the broadband service. I talked on this to the ACS in Launceston,, suggesting improving tourism services online and specialised wood products.

One thing I forgot to mention is that CSIRO is developing a system for "broadband to the bush". This would provide 100 Mbits/s and could use existing TV transmitter towers. If they can
get it to work this would provide a good rural broadband service, but this might take ten years. This work is being funded from some of the royalties from CSIRO's wireless LAN patent:
The present invention discloses a wireless LAN, a peer-to-peer wireless LAN, a wireless transceiver and a method of transmitting data, all of which are capable of operating at frequencies in excess of 10 GHz and in multipath transmission environments. This is achieved by a combination of techniques which enable adequate performance in the presence of multipath transmission paths where the reciprocal of the information bit rate of the transmission is short relative to the time delay differences between significant ones of the multipath transmission paths. In the LANs the mobile transceivers are each connected to, and powered by, a corresponding portable electronic device with computational ability. ...
John O’Sullivan spoke at the CSIRO ICT Centre symposium last week and related how he went from radio astronomy to indoor wireless. He was generous in sharing the credit with his colleagues.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

National Broadband Network: What is it for?

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu have released a useful report: "National Broadband Network - A user's perspective" (16/09/2009). This asks the timely question as to what the NBN will do for consumers, so that they will be willing to pay for it. The report is 32 pages of PDF, but because of the use of large unnecessary images, it is more than 1 Mbyte: you may need broadband just to download it. ;-)

The report is asking the question "What will consumers want to use the NBN for?" which has a very simple answer: "Its the Internet, stupid". The real question is not what consumers will use the NBN for, but how will those industries it will challenge, particularly fixed line telephony, broadcast and pay TV, cope with the competition.

The report considers applications such as smart metering, which are not relevant to the NBN. Smart metering only requires a very low bandwidth connection and can be done with low capacity wireless, data over power lines or old fashioned telephone lines; it does not need fibre to the premises. Similarly discussion of automation of lighting, air conditioning and home security networks are not relevant to the NBN, as these applications do not need broadband and have little value for consumers in any case.

The report suffers from the assumption that the NBN will be built in the way the Government described in its initial announcement, that is as a new completely standalone, pure fibre optic network. This is unlikely to actually occur. The NBN will be assembled from existing networks, using existing fibre backbones, ADSL2+ and wireless Internet, where appropriate. This is partly a matter of engineering, as there is no point in duplicating existing working infrastructure and in some cases there will be no feasible alternative.

Also where the new NBN infrastructure is built will be a matter of economics and consumer demand. There is no point in building an expensive fibre network where there not enough customers to use, and pay for, it. In practice fibre to the home will be first installed in new suburbs and new cluster housing. It will not be feasible to retrofit most existing homes with fibre in the short term. ADSL2+ will remain the most common common for most homes of the next decade. This will be supplemented with wireless Internet.

There are some very obvious uses for the new network, where have not been highlighted by the government in their advocacy for the new system: to replace copper cable telephony and pay TV. These are far from the applications in education and medicine mentioned by the NBN advocates, but telephony and TV will provide the bulk of the revenue from the system and the bulk of the use.

These old applications create new regulatory and industry challenges. The provision of digital TV in Australia was, and still is, crippled by a regulatory regime designed to favour a few TV broadcasters. The NBN would provide the opportunity to open up digital TV to a world of content. However this will make the delivery systems of the existing Pay TV, and well as the free to air TV broadcasters, obsolete and challenge their revenue. The government will be under pressure to put in place restrictions on the use of the NBN for TV, which will then cripple its widespread use.

Similarly there are difficult issues with the provision of telephony over the NBN. Engineering and economics would suggest the NBN should replaced copper based telephone lines. However, this then will remove the need for telephone companies. Apart from threatening the business of the current Australian companies, this creates difficult issues about the provision of reliable telephone services.

Here is the text of the Executive summary of the report, minus the images:
The Federal Government’s 7 April 2009 decision to build a $43 billion national broadband network (NBN) signals the advent of a new digital era in Australia.

The NBN, created and run as a wholesale only, open-access network by the government-owned NBN Company, will operate independently of existing copper-based broadband such as ADSL2+ or legacy cable broadband networks, but may draw on some existing infrastructure in this space.

The single largest investment by any Australian government, the NBN will play a critical role in advancing key national indicators including GDP, employment and productivity.

Deloitte believes the NBN has the potential to rival the impact of other technology milestones such as the widespread adoption of personal computers in the 1980s and the mass market adoption of mobile phones during the 1990s and 2000s.

While the results of the proposed NBN implementation study will not be known until early 2010, the NBN’s future impact can already be anticipated. The proposed implementation study will need to identify what impact the NBN will have on specific industries and businesses to properly consider the likely drivers of end-user demand such as design, pricing, return on investment and funding issues.

It will need to consider uptake in the consumer market and the drivers for this.

Until now, not enough attention has been given to these likely end-user demands and key NBN stakeholders must incorporate these elements into the network design in order to achieve operational success.

Now is the time to shift from the technical discussion to the applications and innovations that are really going to transform Australia and the way we live and operate.

This report, by Deloitte’s Technology, Media & telecommunications industry team, highlights many of the likely end-user demands that should be factored into the design of the NBN.

For consumers and small-to-medium businesses (SMEs), a 100 megabit per second fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network will usher in a new era of digital products and services. Businesses and governments will deliver more services through this network.

It forecasts the arrival of a world where high-speed broadband delivers new video content, security and utility applications directly to the home. Smart metering devices will record most household’s energy consumption in small units of time and facilitate new green-energy delivery options by national utilities.

At an even more transformational level, the NBN will unify the ability of households to deploy automation technologies such as lighting controls, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and home security networks. Widespread adoption of home automation technologies will give utility providers or telecommunications carriers the opportunity to consolidate billing services through a single provider
connected directly to the home via the new network.

Above all, it provides the opportunity to create a digitally-based country better connected both inside and outside Australia.

The NBN must also meet the demands of national objectives relating to emergency response and homeland security.

Environmental and social policy objectives will also influence the network solution, including ensuring the network extends to remote areas, fringe areas and offshore islands. In addition, the NBN must overachieve on environmental targets for energy efficiency, provide an effective basis for indigenous and SME empowerment, achieve world competitive cost levels and fuel the
export of electronic business services.

Deloitte has identified seven primary challenges that threaten the success of the NBN and the future applications and services expected to be delivered using this infrastructure:

• End-user retail packaging and migration
• Competition and regulation
• NBN Company funding and structuring
• Design and construction
• Support for innovation and delivery
of new applications
• Disruption due to the Federal Government election cycle
• Vertical and horizontal integration of private sector industries, and government departments and utilities.

These challenges are outlined in further
detail in this report. ...

National Broadband Network - A user's perspective, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, 16 September 2009

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Getting 9 Volts from USB

USB Adaptor 5 Volt to 9 VoltThe "USB Mobile Phone Adaptor Kit" I ordered from Swamp Industries turned up in the mail the next day. The kit is impressive, with both car and mains USB adaptors to supply power and assorted plugs for differnet phones . However, the USB Adaptor, which boosts 5 Volts from a USB socket to 9 Volts, does not supply sufficient current to run my Huawei D100 3G Router and HUAWEI E169 3G USB modem.

The modem with the US wireless 3G modem plugged in uses about 270 mA, which should be just within what the USB adaptor supplies (300 mA +-5% at 9 Volts). However, the router uses up to 500 mA for a few seconds when it first starts up. When I turn the router on it starts to boot, then the green light on the USB adaptor turns red (presumably to indicate it is overloaded) and the modem goes off.

One good point is that the adaptor doesn't seem to be harmed by the overoad and is able to protect itself. So I did a quick calculation and decided that a 80 uF capacitor would store sufficient power while the router boots (the calculation involves Amps, Volts, Watts, Jules, and Farads). So, in theory, if I connect the capacitor (which will cost about $2) across the power terminals of the DC supply from the USB adaptor and wait a few seconds before turning on the router, the capacitor will be charged up with enough power to supply the router when it starts and it should then run fine.

If there are no more postings for a few days, that will be because my netbook has blown up, while trying this. ;-)

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Powering a 12 Volt Router from USB

USB Adaptor 5 Volt to 9 VoltConnecting the HUAWEI E169 3G USB modem to the Kogan Agora Netbook is proving harder than expected. While there are descriptions on the web of simply plugging the modem in and restarting the computer, the Kogan does not seem to recognise the device. Some manual modifications of setting have not helped. So I decided to take a different approach: when plugged into the Huawei D100 3G Router the modem works fine with the Kogan. The settings for the modem are stored in the router. This has the added advantage of the firewall in the modem and that the device can be shared by several computers.

But the router runs on 12 Volts from and mains power supply. How would I use it when away from a power socket when the Netbook is running on batteries? My first thought was to run the router on the power from a USB plug of the computer. I found that the Kogan's USB sockets supply plenty of power, being able to run an external DVD drive or hard disk. With my previous laptop I had to use two USB sockets to get enough power for an external drive.

The catch is that no one seems to make a USB to 12 Volt adaptor (there are plenty of 12 Volt to USB adaptors). In fact there are numerous web postings saying this is not possible. It is possible, but needs extra electronics to turn the 5 Volts supply by the USB socket into 12 Volts.

Digital MultimeterNot being able to find a 12 Volt adaptor, I thought I would make the problem easier by trying a lower voltage. Most digital electronics actually run on 5 Volts or less. The 12 Volts supplied to equipment is converted down. So first I tried the router at 5 Volts, using the USB adaptor cable which came with the external DVD drive. This was after I checked the voltage and polarity of the power with a multimeter). This did not work, clearly more than 5 Volts was needed.

Previously I had run a router designed for 12 Volts on a 9 Volt supply, with no problems. So I tried this with the Huawei D100 3G Router and found it works fine on 9 Volts (it has been running for 12 hours this way).

So then I looked for a USB to 9 Volt adaptor. There were numerous queries about such devices on the web and replies saying it was not possible. But I found one about a "USB Power Supply for Video Sunglasses" which used a DC-DC converter (voltage converter) from a phone charger accessory kit described as a "9V Nokia Booster for Wireless Phone Charger".

The booster is a small black box with a USB plug on one end and a USB socket on the other. The device converts 5 Volts to 9 Volts at 300 mA and is designed for charging old Nokia mobile phones. The instructions warn this should only be used with a 9 Volt device: plugging a standard 5 Volt powered USB device into the unit could damage the device.

As I already had a USB adaptor from the DVD which plugs into the router, it should be a simple matter to plug the voltage booster into the Netbook, plug the USB adaptor cable into that and that into the router. But where in the world do I buy such an adaptor and how long will it take to get to Australia?

As the device was for a Nokia phone, I looked at the Nokia catalogue, which had a "Nokia Charger via USB port CA-100". However, this appeared to be for newer phones which use a lower voltage. I looked at Ryda, who sell a "Nokia CA-70 USB Data Cable with Intergrated Charger". This looked more than I needed and I was still not sure it would supply the needed voltage.

After more searching I found the "Charger Sony K750 W830c w958 Z558 M608 W300 J220 K310" offered on Ebay by Swamp Industries. This appeared to be the same adaptor kit as used for the video sunglasses. I checked to see the company details on the web to see how long this would take to import into Australia and found the company is based in Canberra (where I am). Also I found the kit includes an Australian mains to USB power adaptor, which would be handy. On the company's own web site the kit is described as "Universal USB Mobile Car Wall PC Charger Nokia, Blackberry" and was half the price on the company web site as on eBay. So I ordered one.

It will be interesting to see when it turns up. It is also curious that having searched the world online, I found the product I wanted offered by someone a few kilometres away. I was tempted to phone the company and ask to collect the unit in person, but this is probably a part time mail order company with no shop. I do have the satisfaction of having a name to put to the company, as when I paid via PayPal, the system gave me the person email address of who was getting the payment.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

WiMAX Wireless broadband and the National Broadband Network

WiMAX wireless broadband will provide and ADSL2+ equivalent service according to a media release from the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy: "Adelaide blackspots to get high speed broadband". The service will be provided by Adelaide company Adam Internet and subsidised by the government's Australian Broadband Guarantee. However, Adam are only offering up to 12Mbps, whereas ADSL2+ is capable of up to 24 Mbit/s. It would be more accurate to describe the service as similar to ADSL2, which has data rates up to 12 Mbit/s.

WiMax was central to the previous government's plan for broadband ("WiMAX technology supported worldwide", Media Release 84/07, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, 20 June 2007). That plan was overliant on WiMax. However, the technology has advanced in the interim and should provide a useful supplement for other technologies in areas where it is difficult, or uneconomic to lay cable.

The new government's plan to aim for fibre optic cable to most of Australia is a good one, provided you not not assume that it will be achieved. It is more likely that we will have a mix of technologies, with fibre cable in new urban areas, where it can be cost justified. ADSL will remain in use in most areas for the foreseeable future, supplemented by various wireless technologies.

Joint media release

Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Hon Michael O’Brien MP
Minister for Science and Information Economy

Adelaide blackspots to get high speed broadband

Residents living in broadband blackspot areas across the Adelaide metropolitan area are set to receive a state-of-the-art wireless broadband network.

The network will be jointly funded by the State and Federal governments along with leading Internet Service Provider - Adam Internet - which will deliver the service.

"This investment will deliver high-speed broadband to homes and businesses across Adelaide suburbs in advance of the National Broadband Network," the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said today.

"Broadband is an important part of family and business life and this project will help ensure more people in metropolitan Adelaide have access to high-speed broadband services," Senator Conroy said.

SA Minister for Science and Information Economy, Michael O’Brien said Adam Internet, a SA based company, had won the contract to construct the network because of its strong track record and position as one of the industry’s leading Internet Service Providers.

"This contract will initially create an extra 110 jobs during the network construction and customer connection phase with 75 permanent jobs required in the longer term for ongoing operation and maintenance," Mr O’Brien said.

"Work will begin almost immediately on addressing more than 350 blackspot locations across Adelaide. First connections are marked for significant problem areas in Reynella and other southern suburbs.

"About 10 per cent of residential, commercial and industrial, properties across metropolitan Adelaide are unable to use ADSL, the most common form of broadband access," Mr O’Brien said.

Adam Internet Chairman, Greg Hicks said the Broadband Blackspot project was terrific news for affected SA households with residents finally being delivered technology solutions comparable with – or better than – those of their neighbours.

"Adam Internet is proud to deliver the first metropolitan roll-out of WiMAX – Adam Max – ensuring these customers receive ADSL2+ equivalent services," Mr Hicks said.

"AdamMax will effectively blanket metropolitan Adelaide, lighting up blackspot areas and providing a service that is fast, reliable and value for money. We are excited to partner with the Federal and State governments to deliver this service."

The 15 month rollout - which will see the first WiMAX service area coming online in October this year - will be supported by an initial $3 million investment from South Australia’s Broadband Development Fund and ongoing contributions from the Commonwealth’s Australian Broadband Guarantee.

"The Rudd Government is making strong progress to deliver the National Broadband Network, but also wants to ensure better services as this historic project is rolled out," Senator Conroy said.

"The Australian Broadband Guarantee helps deliver fast and affordable broadband to people in blackspot areas, as well as increasing competition in the broadband market."

Mr O’Brien said the broadband blackspot initiative would bolster the South Australian economy.

"A study by economics consulting firm, Systems Knowledge Concepts Pty Ltd (SKC) has shown that the economic benefit to the State of this initiative is estimated to be more than $87 million over five years," Mr O’Brien said.

"The State Government’s Information Economy Agenda 2009-2014 paper sets a vision and framework for delivering South Australia’s digital future. The Broadband Blackspot Project will help us to work towards achieving our digital goals," Mr O’Brien said.

For more information on the Federal Government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee Adelaide blackspots to get high speed broadband, Stephen Conroy,Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 14 August 2009

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Netbooks on Wireless Plan

Optus, Telstra and Vodafone now all offer a netbook with 3G wireless broadband access on a monthly payment plan (usually over 24 months with 1 to 5 MB of data a month). Optus offer the Samsung NC10, Telstra the Acer Aspire, and Vodafone the Dell Mini 9.

This is a very convenient way to get Internet access for email and casual web browsing. But you need to be careful not to exceed your monthly download limit on those plans where you are excess for excess data. It would be very easy to download a movie and end up with a large bill. Also the bundled deals usually cost more than buying the netbook and data access separately.

I use Virgin Mobile Broadband at $39 a month postpaid with my Kogan Agora Netbook Pro. This is not as convenient, as the Kogan does not have the 3G modem built in. I use an external HUAWEI E169 3G USB modem, which came free from Virgin. The Virgin plan reduces the data rate to 64 kbps when the 5 Mbyte monthly limit is reached, rather than imposing additional charges.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro Battery Time

Greetings from the main reading room of the National Library of Australia. The Kogan Agora Netbook Pro is reporting that its fully charged six cell battery will last for 3.5 hours. The Agora is in its natural environment here, every second person seems to have some sort of small laptop to research the great Australian novel. I was able to quickly connect to the NLA's free, but slow, WiFi service. I had a few problems with the service asking me to reconnect each time I opened a window in Firefox and not allowing spell checking in Google Blogger, but leaving the first window I opened at the NAL home page seems to fix this.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro Updating Software

There not being FTP software apparent on my new Kogan Agora Pro netbook I started the "add/remove applications" utility to get some. It at this point I started to realise what my Linux using colleagues had been talking about with the ease of Linux maintenance for all these years. I simply selected the gFTP client and it was downloaded and installed in a few seconds.

Emboldened by this, I started the "Synaptic Package Manager" and instructed it to update all of the software installed on the system with any needed updates. This resulted in several hundred files totaling several hundred megabytes being downloaded and installed, taking about 20 minutes. The download and install proceeded with no problems, but afterwards the system did not respond and I had to turn the power off and on, at which point everything seemed to be fine. This was comparable to the process for the Microsoft Windows computer I borrowed recently which had not had any updates installed for about a year.

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Kogan Agora Netbook Pro Video

My Kogan Agora Pro netbook was not playing video: it didn't work and locked the system. But after a few days, without having done anything to fix it, the video is now working. I can use Skype video conferencing (well I could if Virgin Mobile Boradband could supply broadband) and can play Youtube videos. The system now also passes the Ubuntu hardware test utility.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro WiFi

With the aid of the manual and a few minutes thinking, I was able to get the wireless Internet access working on the Kogan Agora Pro netbook. For the last few days I have been trying to get it to work from the system administration network utility. After reading the Manual, it turns out that all I had to do was click on the network icon on the top of the screen and select a WiFi network from the list, to connect to. This still took some deductive work, as the manual shows the icon as a radio antenna (pointed), whereas the screen shows it as a computer terminal (a square box). Only after I connected to a wireless network did the square box change to the pointed antenna shape, as shown in the manual.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

National Broadband Network roll-out in Tasmania

This morning I was interviewed on ABC Radio Hobart about the National Broadband Network with a roll-out in Tasmania. This is planned to provide 100 MBPS. Also ADSL2+ and "naked ADSL" have become available. I explained that while the NBN fibre optic network will be offering more capacity, in pratice the up to 24 MPBS of ADSL2+ and 12 MBPS of ADSL+ were more than adequate for ordinary web browsing. The additional speed was only significant for high definition video or medium size business. Also it depends on the entire Internet connection between the home and the web server having a high speed connection (Tasmania just got a new fibre optic cable across Bass Straight). I did not get time to mention that wireless, such as WiMax and G3 provide MBPS adequate for many applications.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Additional Victorian Wireless Network

The Victorian government has selected Nokia Siemens to build and operate a $150m wireless voice and data network for communications to urban trains. The system will use GSM-R, a variant of the GSM protocol used for old mobile phones in Australia. The GSM-R network will be separate from the mobile phone network, having its own cell towers and handsets.

The new system will not be compatible with the radio systems used by interstate trains in Victoria, nor with those used by other state government services particularly emergency services used for rescue in railway accidents. It appears likely a separate radio system will also be required for Victorian trains outside the Melbourne urban area.

It does not appear that installing a separate radio network just for trains in Melbourne is a good idea. Similar coverage and reliability could be provided by a combination of publicly provided networks, including the 3G phone networks installed by Australian telcos. As well as not needing the installation of any base stations, this would also allow for operation in rural areas, inter-working with other operators and with emergency services.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Iridium Satellite Services for Department of Defence

The Australian Department of Defence has issued a Request for Tender for Iridium Satellite Services (ATM ID CIOG 608/08, 27-Apr-2009). The ADF uses Iridium for test messages, voice and data communications. A detailed tender document is available to registered companies.
The Satellite Operations Section of the Directorate of Communications and Network Operations coordinates the provision of satellite communication services to the Australian Defence Force. The primary intent is to provide a low cost alternate communications means for service personnel within Australia, its littoral regions and across the globe. To achieve this, the ADF has been utilising the Iridium satellite constellation. The Iridium satellite constellation is a system of active communication satellites with spares in orbit and on the ground. It allows worldwide voice and data communications using handheld satellite phones. The Iridium network is unique in that it covers the whole earth, including poles, oceans and airways.

The Australian Defence Force currently utilises the Iridium fleet for paging, voice and data communications.

This Request for Tender aims to replace the current arrangement for the provision of Iridium Satellite Services to the Australian Defence Force. ...

From: Request for Tender for Iridium Satellite Services (ATM ID CIOG 608/08, Australian Department of Defence, 27 April 2009

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Dealing with Swine Flu pandemic using smart phones and podcasting

Australian government agencies are advising of Swine Flu Precautions. In 2006 I presented "E-government for emergencies: dealing with a bird flu pandemic using the wireless web and podcasting" at CeBIT Australia (extended technical presentation, ANU, 26 March 2007). This discussed how wireless web technology and podcasting could be used for dealing with a possible influenza pandemic. This included providing advice to the public and to officials on what to do, using the technology to manage health resources. Students in the ANU course "Networked Information Systems" COMP2410 learnt how to design web pages for this and many of them now work in and for government agencies.

One problem at the time was, and remains, that there is no unified web based service in Australia. Each state health authority issues its own information in its own format. While this made sense when the information was issued in the form of brochures the public might pick up at their local library it makes little sense online, where the state governments are just as accessible as each other.

The Internet can also be used to keep services operating, including government, with fewer staff and where gathering of people is not possible.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

National Broadband Network Consultants

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCE) have issued a Request for Expression of Interest for "Provision of Lead Advisory Services relating to the Implementation Study for the National Broadband Network" (ATM ID DCON/09/23, 24-Apr-2009). There is a 40 page requirements document available to registered companies. The actual Statement of Requirement is a concise three pages.

Part 5 - Statement of Requirement

34. Services

34.1 The Services

The Department is seeking to appoint a high calibre recognised expert as Lead Adviser to provide high quality and timely advice throughout the National Broadband Network implementation study and to manage the production of an integrated implementation study report, that ensures that all issues are appropriately covered. It is expected that the implementation study will examine and provide advice on a wide range of commercial, financial, project management and governance and telecommunications issues relevant to the National Broadband Network.

The Lead Adviser will need to be comfortable working within a multi-disciplinary team comprised of a range of different entities, both private and public sectors and with a range of perspectives and expertise.

The Lead Adviser will be required to work closely with the National Broadband Network Implementation Division within the Department and have core members of the team readily available to the Department in Canberra, other specialist advisers to the implementation study, other Government departments, and a range of key stakeholders, as well as reporting to broader project governance bodies within Government. The Lead Adviser would work in conjunction with the Legal Adviser that will be appointed separately by the Department.

The Lead Adviser will be expected to have demonstrated expertise and wide range of experience in relation to investment in, financing of, project management of, and commercial and other aspects of large scale complex infrastructure projects, preferably with a multi billion dollar value, and preferably experience with telecommunications projects and preferably in Australian context.

The Lead Adviser will need to be comfortable working within a multi-disciplinary team comprised of a range of different entities, both private and public sectors and with a range of perspectives and expertise.

In this context, the Government considers possible Respondents may include, financial, commercial, project management, civil engineering and strategic consulting firms.

Given the complexity, high-profile, duration and tight timeframes involved in the work, the Department considers it is best undertaken by a team of appropriately qualified and experienced personnel. The Department considers it important for teams to have effective system of quality assurance, including peer review.

      34.2 Specifically, the National Broadband Network implementation study Lead Adviser will be:

  1. Contracted to, within a specified timeframe, provide lead advisory services to the Department on all relevant issues arising throughout the National Broadband Network implementation study;

  2. Provide a fully integrated report of the implementation study in February 2010, with one or more interim reports to be available on specific aspects from August 2009;

  3. Contracted to provide sign-offs in a form acceptable to the Department;

  4. Required to work with other advisers to the Department.

      34.3. The implementation study will be multi-disciplinary and will need to include analysis and recommendations encompassing:

  1. Advice as required in support of proposed legislation relating to the operation and governance of the network company, the regulatory regime, and ownership restrictions for retail telecommunications providers and other investors as required;

  2. Advice on the overall funding requirements for the network rollout (quantum and profile) beyond the $4.7 billion initial funding injection;

  3. Development of strategies to maximise the scope for private sector investment in the network company, subject to appropriate ownership restrictions and appropriate terms and conditions for participation;

  4. Advice on the optimal capital structure for the network company over time;

  5. Development of detailed commercial/financial and engineering analysis of the network roll-out and the implications for the network company;

  6. Advice on how best to structure NBN Company arrangement from the outset so that the Government’s long term objective of privatisation can be accommodated;

  7. Development of plans for the integration of the Tasmanian operation and backhaul network into the overall national broadband network;

  8. Network design consistent with the Government’s objectives;

  9. Development of strategies to provide procurement opportunities for local businesses;

  10. Develop a detailed implementation plan for the roll-out of the National Broadband Network;

  11. Development of recommendations as to the appropriateness of any foreign ownership restrictions for the network company;

  12. Development of a risk management strategy for the national broadband roll-out; and

  13. Stakeholder consultation.

      34.4 The list outlined is clause 36.3 is not exhaustive but indicative of the breadth of issues that will need to be considered in the National Broadband Network Implementation Study report.

      34.5 The Lead Advisers will also be required to perform a range of general tasks, including but not limited to:

  1. Day-to-Day involvement in the drafting of the National Broadband Network Implementation Study report, in consultation with other specialist advisers appointed to the implementation study and the Department;

  2. Conduct of the EOI processes for potential specialist advisers (see below) and other related service providers, as appropriate, consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines;

  3. Participate in meetings and working groups;

  4. Liaison with regulatory bodies and other advisers to the Australian Government;

  5. Providing reports and advices, as required;

  6. Preparing and making presentations to and interacting with industry, senior government officials and advisers, and other stakeholders, as required.

      Subcontractor Management

      34.6 The Lead Adviser will be required to engage further specialist advisers (as sub contractors to theLead Adviser), such as technical, regulatory economics or other, in consultation with the Department to complement the Lead Adviser’s own skills and experience to ensure all issues are appropriately covered in the final implementation study report.

      34.7 The Department will be responsible for the appointment of a Legal Adviser to the implementation study.

      34.8 The Lead Adviser will be required to undertake specific tasks in relation to subcontractors including arranging the request for proposals or tenders, assessing proposals and obtaining the Department’s approval and conducting all processes in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines.

      Consideration of the National Broadband Network Implementation Study Report by Government

      34.9 The Lead Adviser appointment will also include the provision of services to support Government consideration of the completed implementation study report.

      34.10 The Lead Adviser will be required to assist the Department and the Government in considering the findings and recommendations from the implementation study report, respond to any queries on the Implementation Study report and assist decision makers on the approach to the National Broadband Network roll-out.

      34.11 Service Levels

      The Department will require services to be provided within timeframes specified by the Department or as otherwise agreed between the Department and the successful tenderer.

From: "Provision of Lead Advisory Services relating to the Implementation Study for the National Broadband Network" (ATM ID DCON/09/23, 24-Apr-2009)

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

National Broadband Network may increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The ACS Victorian Branch conference this year is on the theme "Greening ICT towards Sustainability" 15 to 16 May 2009. I am facilitating a session on The Carbon Footprint and was thinking we might look at the environmental implications of the government's $43B National Broadband Network plan. This will have both negative effects and positive. An example of a negative effect is that higher bandwidth devices use more electricity and will therefore cause more greenhouse gas emissions. Also the digital devices connected to the network tend to use more power than old fashioned analog devices. A positive effect will be if more access to teleconferences results in less business travel.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

National Broadband Network Discussion Paper

The Australian government released a "National Broadband Network:
Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband
" Discussion Paper on 7 April 2009. This 65 page document is perhaps the most significant part of the government's NBN Plan.

The document is provided in PDF (544Kb) and RTF (1.7Mb) formats, with MP3 audio and Braille also offered. Unfortunately a simple HTML version is not offered.

Table of contents and introduction from the National Broadband Network: Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband, Discussion Paper, April 2009:

Table of contents
  • Table of contents
  • Minister’s foreword
  • Australian telecommunications industry snapshot
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Proposed regulatory reforms for the National Broadband Network roll out
  • Consultation on broader regulatory reform options
  • Policy goals
  • Submission process
  • Chapter 2: Regulatory environment for the National Broadband Network and the roll out of fibre
  • National Broadband Network governance, ownership and operations
  • National Broadband Network access regime
  • Facilitation of fibre roll out
  • Consultation process
  • Chapter 3: Telecommunications competition framework
  • Part XIC access arrangements
  • Anti competitive conduct provisions
  • Separation arrangements for Telstra
  • Facilities access regime
  • Spectrum allocation
  • Chapter 4: Telecommunications consumer safeguard framework
  • Universal access
  • Connections and fault repair
  • Retail price controls
  • Community safeguards
  • Opportunities for red tape removal
  • Enforcement
  • Chapter 5: The bigger picture
  • Appendix A: Review of operational separation
  • Endnotes
Chapter 1: Introduction

The Government has announced an ambitious National Broadband Network initiative to dramatically improve the availability of superfast broadband across Australia. This bold vision will fundamentally change the competitive dynamics of the Australian telecommunications sector. This network will be wholesale only and open access to maximise competition.

However, it will take time for the new network to be built and for the resulting benefits to be realised by Australian consumers and businesses. The Government is therefore reviewing the existing regulatory regime to explore ways that the regime can be made to work more effectively while the National Broadband Network is being built.

The purpose of this paper is twofold:

  • to outline the proposed regulatory reforms that the Government will progress to facilitate the roll out of the National Broadband Network, and

  • in light of the announcement of the enhanced National Broadband Network, to consult on the options for broader reforms to make the existing regulatory regime more effective in the transition period before the network is fully rolled out.

Proposed regulatory reforms for the National Broadband Network roll out

Legislative amendments that facilitate the roll out of fibre optic to the home and workplace include:

  • the operating regime for the National Broadband Network company. The company will be required to be wholesale only and operate on an open access basis. The legislation will also set out the governance arrangements for the National Broadband Network company

  • facilitating the physical roll out of fibre optic by:

  • expediting land access arrangements for carriers rolling out fibre optic networks to the home and workplace, and

  • improving access to poles, ducts and other infrastructure necessary for the roll out of fibre optic networks to the home and workplace, and

  • requiring that fibre optic networks be installed in greenfield estates that receive planning approval from 1 July 2010.

Chapter 2 of this paper outlines the approach the Government will take in relation to these issues, as well as the consultative mechanisms that will be put in place. This paper is not intended to provide a forum for discussion on these issues. The Government will consult separately with relevant stakeholders on the detail of these legislative amendments before introducing legislation.

Consultation on broader regulatory reform options

The new network will resolve long standing structural problems that have limited the development of effective competition and investment. However, during the roll out, the existing regime will remain important for promoting outcomes in the interests of consumers and business. There is considerable scope to improve the existing telecommunications regulatory regime to make it work more effectively.

The Government called for submissions last year on regulatory issues associated with the National Broadband Network. In reply, the Government received 82 submissions (the Regulatory Submissions) from a range of stakeholders and across a range of relevant issues. One of the core messages from that consultation was that the current regulatory arrangements have shortcomings and inherent limitations. Many submitters provided detailed suggestions for reform.

Issues around the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime were also raised in:

  • submissions on initiatives to provide enhanced broadband to rural and remote areas

  • submissions to and the report of the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (the Glasson Committee) concerning the future needs of rural and regional Australia (the Glasson Submissions and Report), and

  • submissions in relation to the Universal Service Obligation Review in late 2007 (the Universal Service Obligation Review Submissions).

In undertaking this review into the existing telecommunications regime, the Government has considered all material received to date and this material has shaped the Government’s views on possible options. Copies of the submissions from previous processes are available on the Department’s website (

The Government has already made a $61.1 million initial response to the Glasson Review. A number of the recommendations from the Glasson Report were to be considered once the outcome of the National Broadband Network process was fully known. Several questions in this discussion paper are relevant to those recommendations, and responses will be taken into account by the Government in its consideration of those recommendations.

A number of questions in this discussion paper relate to the suitability of the present operational separation requirements applying to Telstra. The Government is using this discussion paper to formally commence the review required by section 61A of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (see Appendix A).

Against this background and the announcement of the Government’s National Broadband Network initiative, the Government is now requesting input from interested stakeholders on the regulatory reform options it is considering, as set out in this discussion paper, or other feasible alternatives.

The following chapters are the focus for consultation in this process:

  • Chapter 3—opportunities for reform of the telecommunications competition framework, and

  • Chapter 4—opportunities for reform of existing consumer safeguards in the telecommunications sector.

Each of these chapters discusses a number of issues, draws on views previously expressed by interested stakeholders, and identifies options for reform that the Government is considering. The Government has not decided to proceed with any particular option at this time. Rather, in light of the enhanced National Broadband Network initiative, the focus of these chapters is to facilitate consultation on the options available to Government.

Chapter 5 flags longer term issues of interest to the Government.

Figure 1 shows the Government’s plan to achieve a highly competitive telecommunications market and national superfast broadband through the transition to the National Broadband Network environment. It will involve improving the effectiveness of the existing telecommunications regime, in addition to requiring legislation for a National Broadband Network company, fibre in greenfield estates and the facilitation of fibre roll outs.

Figure 7: Steps for the transition to the National Broadband Network environment

Policy goals

In considering changes to the existing telecommunications regulatory regime in the transition to the National Broadband Network, the Government will have regard to its ongoing policy commitment to:

  • improving productivity across the economy

  • competition

  • consumer protection

  • rural, regional and remote Australia, and

  • reducing unnecessary regulation.

The Government also recognises that community safety and national security objectives are integral to its telecommunications policy settings.

Efficient economy and productivity

The overarching objective of the 1997 telecommunications regulatory reforms was to promote the long term interests of end users of telecommunications services, and the efficiency and international competitiveness of the Australian telecommunications industry.12

Telecommunications services that are universally available, reliable and affordable are accepted as a critical input to the operation of an equitable society and an efficient economy. While once it was sufficient to have well functioning voice and basic data services, high speed broadband services are essential to the future efficiency and productivity of Australia’s economy. A recent study has suggested that widespread access to and use of high speed broadband would expand economic activity by approximately 1.4 per cent of gross domestic product after five years.13

However, these gains will not be achieved unless the correct regulatory settings are in place. In the transition to the National Broadband Network, the Government is committed to creating the market structure that will maximise the benefits to economic efficiency and productivity of high speed broadband services.

Continued commitment to competition policy

The Government’s ongoing commitment is to ensure that markets operate through vigorous competition for the benefit of consumers, businesses and the Australian economy more broadly.14

The national competition policy reforms agreed to by the Australian and State and Territory Governments in 1995 and 2007 affirmed the importance of effective competition to maintaining and improving the welfare of Australia.15

The competitive process encourages firms to:

  • produce goods and services at least cost

  • use resources to produce the goods that are most valued by consumers, and

  • innovate by developing new products and services.

The telecommunications competition reforms introduced in 1997 have delivered benefits to date; however, the regime has operated in the context of a highly vertically and horizontally integrated incumbent.

Moving to the National Broadband Network environment will fundamentally change the competitive dynamics in the telecommunications sector. In the meantime, the Government wants to ensure that the existing regulatory regime works more effectively, including by removing incentives for discrimination and delays through regulatory gaming, to increase opportunities for competitive outcomes.

Ongoing commitment to consumer protection

In October 2008, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a comprehensive consumer policy framework. This included a common objective to improve consumer wellbeing through empowerment and protection, fostering effective competition and enabling confident participation in markets in which both consumers and suppliers trade fairly.

Within the telecommunications sector, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has re-affirmed that the Government is committed to ensuring that telecommunications consumers are protected, and to improving the availability, affordability and quality of telecommunications services.16

Ongoing commitment to regional and remote areas

The Government recognises that appropriate telecommunications services are essential so families, businesses, schools and others in regional and remote areas can actively participate in Australian society.

The Government has recently reiterated its commitment to a prosperous and sustainable regional Australia in its response to the Glasson Review.17 The Glasson Review was established in legislation. Its role was to assess the adequacy of telecommunications in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia and provide a report to Government, including recommendations. The Government’s response is available at

From: National Broadband Network: Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband, Discussion Paper, April 2009.

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National Broadband Network Plan

In the initial excitement of the Australian Government's decision to scrap the previous National Broadband Network (NBN) tender process, some of the subtleties of the new plan may not have been noticed. The new plan is to establish a majority government owned company, to build a network over eight years and operate it. Other aspects of the new plan appear to be very similar to the policy of the previous government, including lavish funding of projects in Tasmania and an emphasis on 'black spots' in major regional and rural areas.

Legislation for requiring fibre optic technology in green fields developments may be difficult for the federal government to implement as planning is a state responsibility. There may be a need for the federal government to provide some incentives to state governments and private developers to encourage them to do this. The NSW Minister for Planning is talking on "Planning in New South Wales - Responding to the Global Economic Crisis" at the University of Sydney, this evening. This might be the opportunity to investigate how the new federal policy could help NSW land planning.

The most significant and effective part of the new policy may be the last part mentioned in the announcement and given least emphasis, which is the changes needed to the telecommunications regulatory regime. Changes to regulations could make it easier for carriers to share infrastructure and also force them to do so, where that is in the public interest. This may do more to provide broadband widely and at a reasonable cost, than any other part of the new policy. The consultative process on the proposed changes will be interesting.

The Regulatory Reform will consider options for:

  • streamlining current regulatory processes, by allowing the ACCC to set up-front access terms for companies wanting access to Telstra and other networks;
  • strengthening the powers of the ACCC to tackle anti-competitive conduct by allowing it to impose binding rule of conduct when issuing competition notices;
  • promoting greater competition across the industry, including through measures to better address Telstra's vertical and horizontal integration, such as functional separation;
  • addressing competition and investment issues arising from cross-ownership of fixed-line and cable networks, and telecommunications and media assets;
  • improving universal access arrangements for telephony and payphones; and
  • introducing more effective rules, requiring telephone companies to make connections and repairs within set time-frames.
From: Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband, Joint media release, PRIME MINISTER, TREASURER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE, MINISTER FOR BROADBAND, Document ID: 110057, 7 April 2009

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Australian broadband many happen despite government plan

The Australian Government has announced it has rejected all tenders and will instead will set up a new company to build and operate a New National Broadband Network. But unless the scope of the project is reduced to a realistic level this appears no more likely to succeed than the failed NBN tender process.

The failure of the NBN tender process is not unexpected, given the stringent requirements set. The aims for the new company appear to be more limited, but still may be beyond the technical capabilities of the technology and the management abilities of the government. This project is far larger and more complex than the many Defence Department projects which have recently failed due to poor management and overly ambitious technical requirements. As currently scoped the project would appear to have minimal chance of success.

However, developments with broadband technology, particularly wireless broadband, may make the system obsolete before it is built. This may save the government from embarrassment by allowing the new technology to meet many of the stated goals, without the planned system ever being built.

The new superfast network will:

* connect homes, schools and workplaces with optical fibre (fibre to the premises or 'FTTP'), providing broadband services to Australians in urban and regional towns with speeds of 100 megabits per second - 100 times faster than those currently used by most people—extending to towns with a population of around 1,000 or more people
* use next generation wireless and satellite technologies that will be able to deliver 12 megabits per second or more to people living in more remote parts of rural Australia
* provide fibre optic transmission links connecting cities, major regional centres and rural towns
* be Australia's first national wholesale-only, open access broadband network
* be built and operated on a commercial basis by a company established at arm's length from Government and involve private sector investment
* be expected to be rolled-out, simultaneously, in metropolitan, regional, and rural areas.

Every person and business in Australia, no-matter where they are located, will have access to affordable, fast broadband at their fingertips. ...

From: New National Broadband Network, Joint media release, PRIME MINISTER, TREASURER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE, MINISTER FOR BROADBAND, Document ID: 110063, 7 APRIL 2009

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Touch screen in Prototype Pontiac G8 for LAPD

Touch screen in Prototype Pontiac G8 for LAPD
This is a photo of me operating the large portrait format touch screen in the centre console of the prototype Pontiac G8 Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) squad car. The screen replaces the clutter of controls common in police vehicles.

The car was unveiled at the APOCA 2009 Conference in Sydney, 2 March 2009. It was developed by National Safety Agency and is based on the US export version of the Australian made Holden commodore.

Photo by John Weippert, NT Police Fire and Emergency Services.

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Prototype Pontiac G8 for LAPD

This is a prototype Pontiac G8 Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) squad car. It is based on the US export version of the Australian made Holden commodore. The vehicle is fitted with a large portrait format touch screen in the centre console, replacing the clutter of controls common in police vehicles. The car was unveiled at the APOCA 2009 Conference in Sydney, 2 March 2009. It was developed by National Safety Agency.

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