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NBN rollout spreads across Victoria

7:45AM | Monday, 28 July

The NBN Co has announced the latest suburbs and towns in Victoria to be added to the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.   Currently, the NBN Co is preparing fixed broadband rollouts in parts of Langwarrin, Werribee, Epping, Langwarrin South, Cranbourne West and Shepparton.   According to the NBN Co, the latest news means pre-construction activities are now underway that will see 14,900 premises in the fixed-line footprint and 1200 premises in the fixed wireless footprint connected to the NBN.   Meanwhile, fixed line services are currently being rolled out in other parts of Langwarrin, as well as Melbourne suburbs Seddon, Yarraville and Kingsville.   The NBN Co is also constructing fixed wireless infrastructure in south-western Victoria (Macarthur and Simpson), the Grampians (Balmoral and Drummond) and the Loddon-Mallee district (Elphinstone and Watchem).   Hpowever, it can take around 12 months from when construction begins to when residents and business owners can receive NBN services from phone and internet providers.   In a statement, the NBN Co spokesperson Trent Williams says the networks already pass more than 140,300 premises in Victoria, with 49,800 currently connected.   "The rollout of the NBN continues to gather momentum throughout Victoria which means more families and businesses are a step closer to being able to benefit from fast and reliable broadband," Williams says.   "The NBN has the potential to be a key driver of growth in Australia’s declining manufacturing industry. Access to fast and reliable broadband can provide new opportunities for innovative businesses to create niche products, expand into new markets and reduce operational costs."   Meanwhile, services have now been switched on for more than 10,000 premises in Tullamarine and Shepparton, with businesses in these areas urged to begin planning their migration to the network.

NBN Co and Telstra agree on broader FTTN deployment

6:55AM | Thursday, 26 June

NBN Co and Telstra have reached agreement on an expanded program to plan, design and construct fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) high-speed broadband to about 200,000 homes and businesses.   The agreement marks a major step forward in the Government’s ongoing reform of the National Broadband Network. The reforms currently underway at NBN Co will ensure the network is delivered sooner, at less cost to taxpayers, and more affordably for consumers.   The number of premises to be covered by the project is roughly equivalent to the 206,000 homes and businesses passed by the NBN fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout in established neighbourhoods over the entire period the previous Labor government was in power.   NBN Co will continue to deploy its FTTP, fixed wireless and permanent satellite networks during the period of the FTTN trial deployment.   NBN Co’s contract with Telstra will ensure initial rollout of FTTN focuses on areas categorised as ‘underserved’ in the Government’s MyBroadband broadband quality study.   NBN Co estimates areas underserved with broadband account for around 28 per cent of the premises in the rollout regions.   ‘This announcement demonstrates how FTTN can help to bring broadband more quickly to many regional areas than would have occurred under Labor’s plan—and that is good news because upgraded broadband can help regional communities capture improved economic, educational and social opportunities,’ said Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications.   Rollout regions included in the trial project include:   Belmont, New South Wales Bribie Island, Queensland Boolaroo, New South Wales Gorokan, New South Wales Morisset, New South Wales Hamilton, New South Wales Bundaberg, Queensland Caboolture, Queensland Gympie, Queensland Warner, Queensland   In addition, the NBN will expand its current FTTN pilot in Umina on the New South Wales Central Coast.   The agreement for a thousand-node FTTN trial represents an interim step while NBN Co, Telstra and the Government finalise changes to the existing Definitive Agreements covering Telstra’s participation in the NBN. It is anticipated that these changes will include arrangements for the NBN Co to gain access to Telstra’s existing local access network.   In parallel NBN Co will work closely with telecommunications retail service providers to finalise the design of its FTTN products and provide services to end-users.   Early line tests using Very-high-bitrate Digital Subscriber Line technology (VDSL) indicate that download data rates of up to 100 megabits per second and upload data rates of up to 40 megabits per second are achievable over copper lengths of a hundred metres.   The top available downloads speeds are approximately 17 times faster than current average fixed line broadband connections to Australian households. These speeds allow ten high definition television shows to be streamed to a single household or business concurrently. A three minute YouTube video will be able to be uploaded in as little as 42 seconds, compared to up to 20 minutes on today’s average ADSL connections.   Since the September 2013 election the number of households and businesses with active service over the FTTP network has tripled from 48,000 to 146,000.   In the same period the number of premises passed by the FTTP network has almost doubled to 482,000.   Telstra, the NBN Co and the Government are well advanced in negotiating changes to the Definitive Agreements. These negotiations have not yet concluded but are progressing well.   The limited deployment of FTTN is an important step in allowing NBN Co to determine how a multi-technology mix rollout will change its construction and service provisioning operations.

Internode rolls out free Wi-Fi hotspots in Adelaide CBD

6:58PM | Wednesday, 25 June

South Australians will no longer have to search for a hot spot or a café with Wi-Fi in the Adelaide CBD, as the city today switches on free wireless network access throughout central Adelaide.   While Telstra is rolling out its Wi-Fi hotspots across Australia, national broadband provider Internode, a subsidiary of iiNet, has got a jump on the South Australian Wi-Fi game with the creation of its AdelaideFree wireless network.   Launched today in partnership with the South Australian government and Adelaide City Council, Internode says AdelaideFree’s 300 wireless access points across the city will saturate almost the entire CBD, offering free Wi-Fi to more than 30,000 people.   Internode says the network will provide blanket coverage between North Terrace and Wakefield Street/Grote Street and broad access areas in the south city, North Adelaide and the most heavily frequented parts of the Adelaide parklands.   “Already people in Adelaide are embracing this new Wi-Fi capacity. Internode has recorded about 50 per cent increase in use of the Wi-Fi network since announcing AdelaideFree’s deployment last year,” said Internode chief business officer Greg Bader.   AdelaideFree is installed at external locations throughout the CBD including the Festival Centre, the SA Museum, the State Library, the National Wine Centre and the corporate function centre located in the historic Adelaide Stock Exchange building.   The telco says the network is one of the largest CBD-wide outdoor wireless networks in the world and was well tested during Adelaide’s “Mad March” festival season.

Google’s plans for internet access from the sky

6:18AM | Tuesday, 17 June

News that Google representatives are in talks with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are seen as further evidence the web company is looking to set up a series of low-orbit satellites to help connect more people to the internet.   Reports earlier this month said Google was planning to spend more than US$1 billion on a network of 180 satellites to provide internet access from space.   Then Google revealed last week that it paid US$500 million for the satellite imaging company Skybox. It says the deal will give it access to better imaging technology for Google Maps, but it could also see it launch a new satellite network for delivering internet access.   Google is already experimenting with new ways to provide internet access in remote locations through its Project Loon, which began in New Zealand last year and uses antenna held aloft in balloons.   Access to digital networks and information are playing an increasingly important role as we move towards a more networked society.   The global population today is approximately 7.1 billion, yet only 2.4 billion people are connected to the internet. Over the next six years this is expected to double, reaching 5 billion in 2020.   It’s not just about the web   Significantly, internet users will not be the key source of growth. There is increasing demand coming from a range of devices, systems and infrastructure being connected to the internet – home security systems, personal health monitors, cars, trams, trains, smart meters for power, gas and water, traffic lights and offices, as well as public spaces and buildings.   As the internet is further industrialised the big technology companies are tapping into the growth in networked devices – usually referred to as the Internet of Things.   Currently, 16 billion devices such as smart phones, tablets, security systems and smart meters have a network connection. This will grow exponentially towards 50 billion in 2020.   There is a change in the focus of connectivity too - from individual people to houses, towns and cities.   Large information and communication technology (ICT) companies such as Google are driving this increase in global connectivity, as their biggest market growth opportunity lies in the areas of population that do not have internet access.   The World Economic Forum – which monitors the digital divide through its annual Networked Readiness Index – also sees the urgency in making the internet accessible to remote communities from the developing world. They are the people likely to benefit from substantial improvements in the quality of life through access to ICT.   Other players trying to connect the world   Google is not alone in this race. Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has also announced similar satellite plans to connect the unconnected, through the internet.org project.   There have been past attempts to increase internet connectivity via satellites, such as the Iridium Project by Motorolla, now Iridium Communications. Iridium provides satellite phone connectivity across the globe via a constellation of 66 satellites.   The service is limited by very low data rates - approximately 10kpbs - with costs of around A$1 to A$2 per minute of access.   Well ahead of its time, the Iridium project faced significant challenges with a range of technological issues as well as failing to effectively monetise the idea.   There were serious issues with the inter-satellite links needed to maintain the network, its handsets were bulky and its internet access plans were expensive. It remains largely an emergency communication tool and for infrequent access such as asset tracking in maritime/defence applications.   Iridium plans to launch a new satellite service, Iridium NEXT, delivering peak download rates of 1.5Mbs by 2017. We will have to wait to see if the second incarnation of Iridium can increase its subscriber base.   There have also been several other commercially yet-to-be-proven proposals that looked at high altitude long operation platforms making use of aircrafts and balloons to deliver similar broadband services.   These platforms use the millimetre-wave (30-300 gigahertz range) frequency bands (currently targeting around 28-33 gigahertz range) to deliver broadband wireless services to locations theoretically wherever access is required. But none have yet to offer a product to market.   Current satellite constellations are small (such as the 66 in Iridium) with each satellite often covering an area in excess of 1000km2. With limited bandwidth (often less than 100 megahertz available) to share between thousands of subscribers, individual subscribers get very low internet speeds.   Looking for growth   Yet new services are emerging. The Federal Communications Commission in the United States has approved Globalstar’s request to use a frequency band adjacent to the WiFi frequency window to offer satellite based WiFi coverage.   Additionally, operators such as Intelsat and Inmarsat provide satellite internet connectivity across the globe.   The growth in connected people and things presents an expanding market opportunity. Google’s business relies on its users delivering information upon which it can target advertising. It appears to be pre-emptively meeting the projected demand in order to increase its services. Satellite technology has matured and is now able to provide increased access and throughput to users and devices.   Google’s approach is similar to that deployed by mobile phone operators. By increasing the number of satellites, individual beams can cover smaller areas, approximately 100-200km2 thus sharing scarce frequency spectrum with fewer customers, increasing internet access rates.   Competition for Australia’s NBN   In Australia, NBN Co offers broadband plans using existing satellites to about 3% of Australian population scattered around the massive landmass in areas with lower population density.   The company has been designing its own satellites, which will be launched soon to increase access to broadband in remote Australia.   But the project is facing major obstacles in terms of securing the highly regulated satellite launch rights. It is reported that NBN is in negotiation to secure a launch orbit spot.   Google is not confining its vision to satellites or balloons. Google Fiber also plans to offer fibre connections with greatly improved speeds (compared to that offered by NBN) in selected USA cities directly competing with traditional telcos such as AT&T.   This is driving innovation in the sector, with these new technologies providing possible options for the NBN to deliver broadband to cheaper and faster to remote Australian regions where wireline access to broadband may be difficult.   Google’s satellite play highlights its serious intention to move into the new converging world of computing and communications, driving further competition and changes in the communications sector in the near future.   Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas is currently the Director of Melbourne Accelerator Programs (MAP) which supports entrepreneurial activities of the University Community through business acceleration models. He is also an Associate Director for the Institute for the Broadband-Enabled Society.   This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nokia acquires Brisbane-based radio frequency technology company

6:50AM | Thursday, 12 June

Nokia has confirmed that it has acquired Brisbane-based company Mesaplexx in order to boost its radio capabilities in the networks business.   Mesaplexx were recent recipients of the now defunct Commercialisation Australia grant.   In a statement on its company blog, Nokia says:   “Mesaplexx has unique know-how in developing compact, high performance radio frequency (RF) filter technology for the mobile industry.   “Nokia is continually improving its radio systems whilst making them smaller, lighter and more efficient. The Nokia Flexi family of radio access base stations offers cutting-edge solutions that balance energy efficiency, power output and form factor. Adding the very advanced Mesaplexx technology can enhance them further, potentially reducing small cells form factor by 30% or more.   “Every base station needs RF filters, for example to ensure that spectrum can be shared within the same geographical area and that the same antenna can serve for both transmit and receive purposes. The Mesaplexx expertise could help improve radio performance, leading to higher capacity and more efficient networks. This technology would also help reduce overall cost and power consumption and keep radio signal loss to a minimum.”   “Those familiar with radio technologies know that while there has been a lot of progress in recent years, filters are one area where new innovations can still yield significant improvements in performance,” said Marc Rouanne, executive vice president, Mobile Broadband at Nokia. “This company’s stand-out expertise has the potential to achieve that.”

Telstra asks small businesses to hand over their Wi-Fi for hot spots

5:25AM | Tuesday, 27 May

Small businesses will be able to use Telstra’s $100 million national public Wi-Fi network to provide free internet to their customers.   Telstra is asking its small business customers if they will turn their service into a Telstra Wi-Fi hotspot and to be promoted by Telstra as a destination to connect.   Alan Crouch, director of connected home at Telstra, told SmartCompany it was a great offer to small businesses such as cafes, shops and doctors surgeries.   “The whole idea is to be able to provide a place for people to connect,” says Crouch.   “When they’re out and about getting a coffee or when they’re at the doctor, they’ll see the Telstra Wi-Fi there and it gives them a chance to have multiple choices on how they connect.”   Telstra broadband customers will be able to install new gateways allowing them to share a portion of their usage quota each month in exchange for free access to the network.   Crouch says the details of commercial negotiations and costs for business haven’t yet been decided.   “It’s really a ‘better together’ scenario, there’s mutual benefits,” says Crouch.   “We’re providing a service to people that’s going to make them want to come visit shops.”   He says the telco has had considerable interest in the Wi-Fi hotspots in the past 24 hours since it announced its new network.   “We’re asking all of Telstra’s small business customers to start this conversation with us.”   Small business owner and Telstra customer Salvatore Malatesta, the man behind Melbourne’s popular St Ali cafes, says he would welcome the Wi-Fi hotspot in his cafes.   But he says the business already spends a considerable amount on corporate phone plans and would not want to pay any extra fees for the service.   “If they want ambassadorial clients to embrace their technology and give them lots of love on social media platforms and that sort of thing, then it should be free,” says Malatesta.   Interested business can register their interest here.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Wireless world: Telcos invest as we become more mobile

5:44AM | Tuesday, 20 May

News that Telstra plans to build a national wi-fi network, as reported by The Australian and Fairfax mastheads, shouldn’t come as a shock. Given the volatility of anything and everything to do with mobile internet use, nothing should surprise us any more. But it should scare you.   Telstra’s plan, which is being announced right on Crikey’s deadline, will — according to tweets from ZDNet’s Josh Taylor — reportedly see $100 million spent showering the country with new modems for broadband customers who choose to act as wi-fi hotspots using Fon sharing technology. It’ll be free to use by the telco’s fixed broadband customers, although any data used will count towards their quota, and a “small daily fee” for others.   Arranging free wi-fi for fixed broadband customers is not uncommon in Asian and North American cities, although the Fon sharing is a less common twist, and it’s a logical move for Telstra for the same reasons. It makes the telco’s fixed broadband packages more attractive, it reduces the load on 3G/4G mobile broadband services in high-traffic areas, and — not talked about so much — it provides more opportunities to track customer behaviour for all those data mining and monetisation strategies that make modern telcos into something much more like a media company.   For all the hype around the “mobility revolution”, and while consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices away from the home or office, the growth in Australia’s mobile broadband market was just 3% in the 12 months to December 2013, according to research released yesterday by analyst firm Telsyte.   The proliferation of public wi-fi hotspots, which Telsyte analyst Alvin Lee says are “sprouting like mushrooms and are now widely supported by local councils, shopping centres, local businesses and increasingly our transport networks”, means that there’s less need for a dedicated mobile broadband device — particularly as most smartphones can now operate as a wi-fi hotspot, and people are becoming more comfortable pressing that button.   “The opportunity for dedicated mobile broadband is diminishing even as mobile traffic continues to grow,” Lee said. As a result, Telsyte believes telcos will only be able to monetise 20% of the consumer media tablet market.   Indeed, why would anyone want to load yet another device into their pocket, perhaps with yet another charger, and certainly with another monthly bill?   Whether this will play out well commercially for Telstra remains to be seen. As Fairfax’s David Ramli points out:   “Other Australian companies have attempted to use Wi-Fi hotspots to give customers more internet services on the go with very low success rates.”   iiNet sees its wi-fi offering more as a marketing tool.   My weekend in San Francisco showed how this might play out. AT&T has wi-fi hotspots across the city, and you see their branding every time you look for a connection. It left an impression. But at the same time, most bars, cafes and shopping malls have “free” wi-fi too — along with power outlets and somewhere to sit.   “Free” is in scare quotes there because the use of wi-fi for tracking consumers is becoming ever more sophisticated. Toronto-based Turnstyle is just one of the companies pushing the boundaries in this regard. By rolling out a unified wi-fi network throughout the shopping district, they can track people as they go about their business. As The Wall Street Journal reported in January:   “Turnstyle’s weekly reports to clients use aggregate numbers and don’t include people’s names. But the company does collect the names, ages, genders, and social media profiles of some people who log in with Facebook to a free wi-fi service that Turnstyle runs at local restaurants and coffee shops… It uses that information, along with the wider foot traffic data, to come up dozens lifestyle categories, including yoga-goers, people who like theater, and hipsters.”   If Telstra is planning something similar — and given that this is increasingly the way things are done, I suspect it’s likely — then this could be the start of one of the most comprehensive consumer tracking databases in the country.   This article first appeared on Crikey.

What now for the NBN as taxpayer investment is capped?

5:34AM | Friday, 16 May

The Abbott Government’s first federal budget has allocated funds for capital investment into the National Broadband Network (NBN) to continue up to 2017-18 but with a cap of A$29.5 billion.   This falls well short of NBN Co’s original forecast of A$44.1 billion not withstanding various estimates of cost blowouts and new NBN Co leadership’s revised forecast of A$72.6 billion.   The Coalition under Tony Abbott’s leadership in opposition and in government has long maintained that NBN could cost less and be rolled out quicker.   That commitment was confirmed this week by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull following the budget announcement on spending.   In a statement, he said the budget provides A$20.9 billion in equity funding to NBN Co to cover up to 2017–18. This is on top of A$8.6 billion already committed bringing the total to the capped A$29.5 billion.   New sources of funding needed   NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow now faces some difficult decisions in deciding how best to allocate resources to meet the objective of providing high-speed broadband across Australia.   Since the Coalition’s election in September last year the NBN has been subject to a number of reviews and a wholesale clean out of management.   With many reviews, such as the cost-benefit analysis, yet to report, the strategic direction for NBN Co is uncertain making it difficult to comment on future developments with accuracy.   What can be said with certainty is the capping of the government’s investment gives a clear indication that Coalition’s NBN will be vastly different from that proposed under Labor.   But some issues will need to be addressed so they do not provide a thorn in the side to NBN Co or hinder the rollout of broadband across the community.   The funding cap amplifies the need for private investment. Only A$57 million has so far been earned in revenue related cashflow against the A$7.3 billion invested to date.   NBN Co will therefore be required to increase revenue and raise funds through private equity or debt financing to ensure it can fund both operational expenses and future capital investments. But it will need to show an attractive rate of return potential to lure Australian institutional investors, superfunds and other international investors.   Alternatively NBN Co will be forced to secure loans to bridge the gap. But whether the Abbott government would offer debt guarantees to the company remains an open question.   NBN Co may seek to reprioritise the rollout of the planned network by cherry picking more profitable connections in metropolitan regions. But this may detract from the rollout of services in areas with a higher capital cost, such as regional towns and outer suburban areas, which are often those areas that have the most to gain from the provision of broadband.   Deals with telcos   The A$11 billion deal with Telstra to lease part of its existing network is currently under renegotiation. This might extend to accessing existing fibre-to-the-cabinet, hybrid fibre-coax and dark fibre in addition to copper infrastructure to speed up “new” NBN rollout.   A changing technology mix means that some existing copper will not be decommissioned, entering operation as part of the NBN.   The outcomes of the renegotiation and the terms of any new agreement will impact the rollout and the future technology mix. Fibre-to-the-node in some form and maximising the use of existing copper infrastructure appears to be a dominant base for such mix and existing carrier infrastructure may offer opportunities in a funding constrained environment.   By further reviewing its construction and installation methods NBN Co may be able to achieve some cost savings and curtail cost blowouts.   Network competition   The NBN Co is operating in an uncertain regulatory environment. The current rules were set up with the NBN Co being a monopoly wholesale infrastructure provider.   But internet service provider TPG’s plan to rollout its own fibre-to-the-basement network is changing the telecommunications landscape requiring a regulatory response. Failure to clarify this would force NBN to lose opportunities in rolling out to rapidly expanding apartments sector with a customer base often opting for higher tier services.   Australia would then see its history repeated once more with parallel network rollout similar to the hybrid fibre-coax rollout by Telstra and Optus.   Maintaining the wholesale monopoly for NBN Co could have possible competitive consequences. Currently there appears to be a confusion in the way wholesale services are defined with potential restrictions on emerging market opportunities. NBN review panel’s terms of reference is seeking input on clarification of this.   Relieving NBN Co of its wholesale-only constraints, or at least redefining its limitations, would allow it to provide network connectivity directly to business end-users such as mobile base-stations, large businesses, governments and national infrastructure such as power grids which offer high growth potential.   This approach would be good for NBN Co as it would open new revenue streams that would support the government’s desire for the company to increase private investment.   Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas is a Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He is currently an Associate Director with the Institute for Broadband-Enabled Society which has received funding from a range of sources including the University of Melbourne and Victorian Government. He is also the Director of Melbourne Accelerator Program which helps to promote entrepreneurship culture through acceleration of start-ups. Views expressed in this article is entirely that of the author and do not reflect the views of his employer - University of Melbourne. He receives funding from the Australian Research Council.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

NBN Co announces new symmetric broadband packages

5:23AM | Wednesday, 14 May

The NBN Co has announced a range of new wholesale symmetric broadband packages targeted at medium sized businesses.   The announcement sees NBN Co wholesaling symmetrical broadband packages at 5 Mbps, 10 Mbps, 20 Mbps, 30 Mbps and 40 Mbps to internet service providers.   The new packages are designed to support business-grade products such as multiline high-definition video conferencing, converged business voice and data, and cloud-based online backup.   The wholesale product, titled Medium Business Service, was originally planned for in the NBN Co’s 2011 consultation paper, which described the service as a replacement for bonded DSL broadband services.   “The Medium Business Service has been designed to address the segment that currently acquires mid-band copper (bonding) and fibre services, which currently range from 2 Megabits per second to 10 Megabits per second,” the report stated.   Telecommunications companies Commander and Macquarie Telecom have already confirmed they will look at offering business-specific services for medium-sized businesses based on the new wholesale packages.   An NBN Co spokesperson told SmartCompany the packages are part of a continuing rollout of new products aimed at the business community.   “NBN Co is designing business products to address the needs of Australian Business – Business, Medium and Enterprise. These will be delivered in a phased approach. Today’s Medium Business Services announcement continues the development of these products, with more to come,” the spokesperson says.   “The features are aimed at allowing Retail Service Providers to provide businesses with the best possible performance even at peak times.   “The Medium Business Services will also deliver the choice of enhanced fault rectification service levels for Service Providers, including the ability to have outages restored 24/7.”   In a statement, Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton welcomes the new product.   “Small and medium businesses increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage if they lack the capability to use interactive and collaborative communications tools – often video-centric and typically demanding of high-speed, stable connectivity. I hope this NBN offering will help service providers deliver a value-added suite of services that will help empower medium-sized businesses across the nation," Stanton says.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

The devil in the NBN's satellite magic pudding

5:49AM | Tuesday, 13 May

There’s good news and bad news for Australians waiting for the National Broadband Network in yesterday’s announcement about the project’s satellite services.   For those on the outskirts of major cities the good news is more areas will get faster fibre and wireless connections while many rural users are going to find their satellite connections further limited.   Rolling fibre out to the entire nation under the NBN was never going to be feasible and the broadband solution for most of the country’s land mass – although only 3% of the population – was going to be satellite internet.   Overloading the satellites   Unfortunately for the NBN, the wireless and satellite services proved to be way more popular than expected with projections of 600,000 regional homes, businesses and farms wanting a connection compared to the original estimates of 230,000.   For the government the choice was to send up another satellite to cater for these needs or to extend the planned fibre and wireless networks.   The latter option was chosen which means around 300,000 premises than originally planned will get wireless, rather than satellite connections and an additional 25,000 will get fibre access.   Bad news for the regions For those in outer suburban areas an improved service is great news but for people in more remote areas NBN Co intends to manage demand by putting download caps on the satellite service.   A stingy 20Gb per month will stunt the growth of startups and other businesses outside the wireless and fibre footprints. In its 2013 survey of the nation’s digital economy, the Australian Communications Media Authority found that fixed line internet users are downloading over 30Gb each month and that number grew 57% over the previous year.   Clearly businesses in the satellite footprints are going to be disadvantaged compared to their city cousins and overseas competitors. For agricultural startups the limited speeds and data caps of satellite services is going to make it harder for these ventures to grow while based in rural locations.   A magic pudding   The cost of extending the fibre and wireless footprint to regional areas is estimated to be $1.5 billion. NBN Co’s management claim this is “within the envelope” of the $41 billion budget of the project.   A magic pudding mentality was one of the hallmarks of NBN Co’s earlier management where Mike Quigley and his team always maintained that everything was under control as things were allowed for in the company’s Corporate Plan. The assurance that an additional $1.5 billion cost is allowed for in the current numbers is not encouraging; whether the current leadership is better at controlling costs, reducing delays and meeting expectations remains to be seen.   The challenge facing the CEO Bill Morrow’s team in meeting existing timeframes shouldn’t be underestimated with the project stalled in many parts of the country, contractors at war with their subcontractors and customers complaining about problems in being connected in the areas where NBN Co has completed work. An uncertain future   Adding to Morrow’s task is the uncertainty of the coalition’s multi-technology-model (MTM) where no one is quite sure exactly how many premises will be connected to fibre, copper or the Pay-TV cables. Until the scope of the project is defined, it’s going to be difficult to figure out what the ultimate costs and timings will be.   That the take up rate of satellite was far greater than expected shows just how important broadband is to regional businesses, for Australia’s startup sector getting the NBN right is essential to being able to compete in the digital economy.

Aussie startup wants to burst the bubble of expensive hotel internet

5:47AM | Wednesday, 7 May

Slow, expensive and often unreliable internet services in hotels have long been a thorn in the side of many a tourist or business traveller.   It’s such a problem that last year Tourism Australia called on Australian hotels to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers.   The 2013 Hotel Chatter Hotel Wi-Fi report noted that Hilton Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast was charging $A29.95 a day for Wi-Fi, while another the Novotel, St Kilda, Melbourne offered two hours of Wi-Fi access for $US10 ($A10.60), or $US27.95 ($A30) for the whole day.   Australian internet service provider Broadband Solutions has partnered with Reivernet, an Australian-based internet gateway to provide a solution.   The duo is offering burstable bandwidth on demand to the Australian hospitality sector.   What this means is hospitality venues can now access bandwidth that they can pay for on demand, a development that Broadband Solutions managing director Sam Bashiry says could lead to cheaper internet for hotel guests and more efficient internet pricing for the hospitality industry.   “Our new service promises to dramatically reduce the broadband and telephony costs for hotel operators by instantly opening up additional bandwidth for hotels when and if they need it,’’ he says.   “Hotels have a unique need for short term bandwidth flexibility.   “Prior to our solution this could only be done on expensive, long-term contracts, often taking months to approve and install.”   Hotels can pay for speeds ranging between 2Mbps and to 1000Mbps, with bandwidth automatically varying as needed.   “This means that they will only ever pay for the bandwidth they use, providing a better value service to their customers,’’ Bashiry says.   “It’s a superior and more stable product than those currently on the market and is just a fraction of the price – a win-win for customers and operators.”   Entrepreneur and inventor Mark Pesce welcomed the move but said the product was already used widely in IT and, as such, wasn’t really innovative.   The technology is already being used in some Langham and Marriot properties.   “Some of Australia’s leading businesses are already harnessing the value of burstable broadband,’’ Bashiry says.   “Their guests enjoy simple, secure and fast broadband, while the venues operate at the most efficient price point possible.”

Tasmanian startups and small businesses describe NBN services “transformative” as rollout slows

4:31PM | Tuesday, 29 April

Tasmanian startups say the rollout of “transformative” NBN services is vital for businesses, as IT lobby group TASICT warns the rollout of the NBN has slowed to a crawl across the island state.   In its submission to the National Broadband Network inquiry, TASICT says that it remains supportive of the full fibre-to-the-premises network being rolled out to all 190,000 premises originally earmarked for connection.   However, it warns that the project has been used “as a political tool” by all major state and federal parties, while key issues are ignored.   The report also notes increasing frustration from retail ISPs about the technology that will eventually be used on the project, with an estimated 50% of appointments missed by contractors due to delays in rolling out the network.   “Prior to the 2013 Federal Election, TASICT lobbied for the completion of the existing fibre to the premises (FTTP) NBN rollout,” the submission states.   “Soon after it become clear the rollout was facing significant issues in Tasmania. By June 2013 the project was plagued by disputes between NBNco, Visionstream and its subcontractors as well as concerns over asbestos risks during remediation work.   “These issues were never dealt with by the Government of the day. In fact, they were completely ignored and the rollout had almost stopped by September 2013.”   The submission claims less than 4000 new premises have been passed by the rollout since Visionstream announced plans to accelerate the rollout in December of last year.   “It was hoped these issues would be addressed by a new government and the rollout could get back on track. To date, that has not happened,” the submission states.   Tasmanian startups who have been able to gain access to the National Broadband Network have described it as being transformative.   Paris Buttfield-Addison, co-founder of independent Hobart-based computer game and app development studio Secret Lab, told StartupSmart before the NBN, the fastest upload speed he could get on ADSL2 was just 0.9 Mbps.   “The connection of the NBN via FTTP to our business has enabled us to be significantly more efficient, work faster with international and interstate clients, and offer better service to our existing clients. We’re able to accomplish in a matter of minutes what used to take overnight – or much longer: Uploading large files!” Addison says.   “Prior to having the FTTP we used to have to use expensive Telstra 4G connections or resort to using the post to mail hard drives or USB sticks to clients to transfer data around. The upload component of NBN has been the most transformative for us.   “We think it’s a bit sad that the rollout has slowed significantly, and we hope that the FTTP rollout moves faster in Tasmania soon. It would be nice if FTTP ended up being widespread here.”   The sentiment is echoed by Biteable.com cofounder James MacGregor, who told StartupSmart the NBN rollout is essential for the growth of Tasmanian startups.   “The snail paced rollout has been disappointing. If any state needs a boost in business productivity it's Tassie. The NBN holds a lot of promise for the new wave of tech businesses emerging in the state,” MacGregor says.   “Our video animation startup Biteable.com is heavily dependent on bandwidth speeds as we're constantly moving large video files. Our servers are based in Hobart currently but we'll most likely move them overseas as an NBN connection seems like a pipe dream at this stage.”   An NBN Co spokesperson told StartupSmart it remains committed to the Tasmanian rollout.   “NBN Co and its construction partner in Tasmania have commitments to deliver fibre to as many premises this year as were passed in the previous five years of the project,” the spokesperson says.   “We are also improving our construction standards so homes are connected at the same time the fibre is being rolled out down the street.   “This change in approach, coupled with the incorporation into the network of existing infrastructure, such as Telstra's copper, will enable more families to receive fast broadband sooner.   “Everyone in Tasmania will receive the NBN. But the rollout will be achieved by working together with construction crews, communities and the telecommunications industry, not by continuing to set heroic targets.”   The spokesperson also points out the latest weekly rollout metrics can be found on the official NBN Co. website.

Controversial tech entrepreneur to political leader: The new startup career path

4:45PM | Tuesday, 22 April

Controversial tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has announced the formation of a new political party, known as the Internet Party, ahead of New Zealand’s next general elections in September.   German-born Dotcom is best known as the founder of the controversial file sharing website Megaupload, for which he was indicted in the US on charges relating to piracy.   Since then, he’s gone on to launch a new venture, a highly encrypted cloud storage service called Mega.   His new party’s positions include delivering cheaper high-speed internet, better oversight of spy agencies, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, copyright reform, the introduction of a digital currency and the introduction of a digital bill of rights.   However, Dotcom is far from the first tech figure to turn to politics – with some having more success than others.   StartupSmart looks at five other high-profile tech figures from the tech world who have gone on to their hand at politics – often with mixed results.   1. Julian Assange, Wikileaks Party   Should Dotcom’s party get off the ground, his political career will inevitably be compared with that of Julian Assange.   Assange is best known as the founder of whistleblower website Wikileaks, along with a long-running series of court cases relating to rape allegations in Sweden. Since August 2012, facing the threat of arrest, Assange has been granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.   After being granted asylum, Assange announced plans to form a Wikileaks political party. The Wikileaks Party contested the 2013 federal election, but only received 0.66% of the vote.   Along the way, several high-profile candidates, including prominent academic and former Wikileaks lead Senate candidate Leslie Cannold, abandoned the party.   2. Ross Perot, Reform Party   A far more successful minor party campaign was run in the US by Texan tech entrepreneur Ross Perot.   Perot got his start in the tech industry all the way back in 1962, when he launched an information technology equipment company called Electronic Data Systems. Perot eventually sold the company to General Motors in 1984, which in turn sold the company to HP in 2008.   It was around the time of the sale to General Motors that Perot met another young tech executive named Steve Jobs. After being ousted from Apple, Jobs had launched a new tech startup called NeXT, and Perot decided to make an investment.   The products Jobs’ company developed included an operating system called NeXTStep, which would eventually form the basis of Mac OS-X and iOS after Jobs returned to Apple. Perot also sold another venture – Perot Systems – to Dell in 2009 for $US3.9 billion.   Of course, these days, Perot is best known for standing as an independent third candidate in the 1992 US presidential election against incumbent George Bush Snr. and Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton.   The Texan stood on a platform combining a mix of policies mixing positions traditionally advocated with the left and the right of US politics. For example, Perot advocated a balanced budget, a tough stance on drug policy and opposition to gun control. However, he also advocated in favour of abortion rights, protectionism, an end to outsourcing and a strong Environmental Protection Agency.   Perot ended up winning 18.91% of the vote, an incredible result for an independent presidential candidate in the US. He stood a second time in 1996, picking up 8% of the vote against President Bill Clinton and Republican candidate Bob Dole.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 3. Rickard Falkvinge, Pirate Party   Of course, when it comes to Kim Dotcom, perhaps the best political role model to follow might be Rickard Falkvinge.   Falkvinge grew up in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, next door to the home ground of football club Västra Frölunda.   Falkvinge’s biography reads like a list of tech entrepreneur clichés. He got his first computer, a Commodore VIC-20, when he was just eight-years-old. By the age of 16, he had launched his first tech startup, a company called Infoteknik. At the age of 18, Falkvinge hired his first employee.   More than making profits, Falkvinge was motivated by the free exchange of ideas that came with the early home computer market. He grew increasingly concerned that harsher copyright laws being lobbied for by the motion picture and record industries could stifle online innovation.   His concerns about patents, copyright law and file sharing restrictions led Falkvinge to form a new political party. On January 1, 2006, he launched the website of his newest venture – dubbed the Pirate Party.   While the new party managed just 0.63% of the vote in its first Swedish elections, it grew to 7.13% for the 2009 European elections. The pirate party model was mirrored internationally, including in Australia. On January 1, 2011 – five years after its launch – Falkvinge stood down as party leader, handing control to his deputy, Anna Troberg.   4. Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal Party   In Australia, the most prominent example of a (far less controversial) tech executive turned entrepreneur is communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Before entering into federal politics, Turnbull has served in many roles, including as the general counsel to Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, the cofounder of law firm Turnbull McWilliam, the chair of the Australian Republican Movement, a journalist and a partner at Goldman Sachs.   Turnbull became the chair of pioneering Australian internet service provider OzEmail in 1994, also becoming an investor in the company. In 1999, at the peak of the ‘90s tech boom, Turnbull sold the company to US telco MCI WorldCom.   In 2004, Turnbull won the by-election for the federal seat of Wentworth, being elected as the local Liberal Party MP at the general election later that year. Since then, he has served as the environment minister in the Howard government, as well as the leader of the opposition.   5. Paul Fletcher, Liberal Party   These days, Paul Fletcher is best known as the Liberal MP for the federal seat of Bradfield, as well as a parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications. It’s a position he’s held since December 2009, when he won the seat at a by-election after former opposition leader Brendan Nelson retired from politics.   However, before entering into politics, Fletcher served as a senior executive in one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies Optus, between 2000 and 2008.   After stepping down from the role, Fletcher authored a book titled Wired Brown Land? Telstra's Battle for Broadband, which dissected the case for Telstra being allowed to build the national broadband network.   He has also run a strategic consulting business focusing on the communications industry, and also served as the chief of staff to former communications minister Richard Alston.

Google steals drone aircraft maker Titan Aerospace from under Facebook’s nose

4:13AM | Tuesday, 15 April

Google has announced the takeover of drone aircraft manufacturer Titan Aerospace, outmanoeuvring Facebook in the process.   As SmartCompany reported in early March, Facebook was believed to be interested in launching a $60 million bid for the drone aircraft maker.   At the time, it was believed the social media giant was primarily interested in Titan’s technology in a bid to launch affordable, low-cost internet services in emerging markets.   Titan’s drones – dubbed “atmospheric satellite platforms” by the company – fly at an altitude of nearly 20 kilometres and are equipped with solar panels, allowing them to continuously remain in flight for up to five years without needing to land.   While most of the content on its website has been removed since the announcement, the New Mexico-based drone aircraft manufacturer originally described its primary market as being for high-resolution imaging.   “Titan Aerospace provides persistent solar atmospheric satellite platforms to global customers for easy access to real-time high-resolution images of the earth, voice and data services, and other atmospheric-based sensor systems,” the company stated on its website as of March this year.   A Google spokesperson emailed SmartCompany and said providing internet access was one of the key benefits of purchasing Titan.   “Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.”   In June of last year, Google announced Project Loon, a project using hot air balloons to deliver broadband services to remote areas.   Meanwhile, interest in drone aircraft has intensified after online retail giant Amazon announced plans to deliver customer orders using unmanned aircraft in December of last year.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Malcolm Turnbull places $29.5 billion cap on NBN spending, new multi-technology mix including HFC

4:43AM | Wednesday, 9 April

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has issued a new statement of expectations to the NBN Co, placing a cap on public investment in the project of $29.5 billion and mandating that a mix of technologies be used to deliver the project.   The new statement gives NBN Co the discretion to act within the $29.5 billion public equity capital limit, with the balance of the $41 billion project to be funded by the private sector.   At this stage the NBN will remain a wholesale-access network operating on the lowest level of the network stack and will continue to make the network available to all access seekers on equivalent terms.   The government still expects the project to result in the structural separation of Telstra when the network is complete.   The letter also sees NBN Co formally adopt the Coalition’s multi-technology mix model, rather than only rolling out fibre-to-the-premises in wired areas.   The rollout will include sections of existing Optus or Telstra hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) cable networks, trials of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) technologies, and other technologies that can deliver at least 50 megabits per second to 90% of fixed line premises as soon as possible.   The government claims the use of the multi-technology model will save the NBN Co. $32 billion in delivering broadband services.   Areas identified as lacking in adequate broadband services in the government’s Broadband Availability and Quality Report will be prioritised for upgrades.   The statement of expectations will also require the NBN Co to have a higher level of transparency to Parliament.   Later this month, the government will receive a report from the second phase of its Strategic Review looking at the provision of services outside fixed wire areas, with the government also conducting ongoing negotiations with both Telstra and Optus.   Once those negotiations are complete, the government will deliver a Corporate Plan for the company.   Rodney Gedda from Telsyte told SmartCompany this morning new statement of expectations formalises many of the government’s existing plans on the National Broadband Network.   “It seems as though it’s a summary of the government’s existing policy changes since the last election, like the multi-technology model.   “In many cases it makes sense to utilise existing HFC networks as part of the rollout, which can currently run speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, and up to a gigabit per second in the future.   “Likewise, with fibre-to-the-basement, linking a multiplexer on a multi-apartment dwelling is more efficient than running fibre optic cable to every single apartment.   “However, when it comes to fibre-to-the node, we’re still stuck with the same speed degradation problems we get with ADSL copper.   “Really, it’s about how the government manages the process. There’s nothing wrong with using existing infrastructure to speed up the rollout, but it’s prudent strategy to also have an upgrade path for the future.”   Alongside the statement of expectations, the government has upgraded its MyBroadband website, adding more details about broadband availability and quality in their area, as well as line speeds.   In a statement, Turnbull says results from the speed test will be used to guide future rollouts.   “The results from the speed test will be collected and analysed by the Department of Communications and will help map internet speeds across Australia.   “I encourage all Australians to join the conversation at MyBroadband to help map internet speeds across the country.   “Once you click on the speed test tab, you will be asked to enter a valid address and answer some basic questions about your internet connection. You can then take the test and see your results.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Turnbull claims 300,000 properties will miss out if NBN plan doesn’t change

4:21PM | Tuesday, 8 April

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to claim up to 300,000 premises outside the NBN’s fixed line footprint will miss out on broadband without changes, in a speech to be delivered today.   In a speech to be delivered at the CommsDay conference in Sydney, leaked to Fairfax Media’s Matthew Knott, Turnbull will say that the number of properties requiring a satellite or fixed wireless connection has been dramatically underestimated.   “The problems mean that without policy changes, the project as planned would not be able to service an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 premises outside of the fixed line footprint,” Turnbull will say.   “If the NBN were to take steps to eliminate the 'coverage gap', the company faces a deterioration of operating cash flows of its satellite and fixed wireless networks of up to $1.2 billion by 2021.”   Twitter unveils user profile redesign   Twitter has unveiled a redesign of its user profile pages, with the changes coming in response to new user growth hitting an all-time low during the last quarter.   The features, currently available to a select number of users, include the ability to pin posts to the top of a users’ feed, as well as the introduction of Facebook-style banners and larger profile pictures.   Business confidence falls as conditions improve   Business confidence fell to its lowest level since the federal election during March, despite an improvement in business conditions, according to the latest NAB Monthly Business Survey.   The survey shows that while conditions improved from zero points to one, confidence fell to a score of four, down from seven in February and nine in January.   “It appears as though firms are responding to the ongoing sluggishness in business activity, which has not quite reflected the exuberance of firms in past months," NAB chief economist Alan Oster says.   “The stubbornly high Australian dollar, uncertainty over the global economy and the potential for significant 'belt tightening' in the upcoming budget, could all have contributed as well.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up to 16256.1. The Aussie dollar is down to US93.61 cents.

April Fools’ startup PR pranks: The good, the bad and the downright silly

4:09AM | Tuesday, 1 April

April Fools’ Day is a rallying call for the PR industry, which has whipped out would-be ideas for their clients. Here’s our pick of the five almost-stories that stood out.   Kogan Drone Broadband Network takes flight     The idea serial entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan has (allegedly) launched a Wi-Fi broadband network via drones, which are already in the air around you, is quite fun.   From the release: “The current Australian NBN rollout is going to cost an estimated $73 billion. Frustrated by the delays and cost blow-out associated with the NBN, our team of engineers decided to take matters into their own hands.”   With the ongoing angst about the withering NBN, and Google’s actual ambitions to spread internet via hot air balloon last year, this idea is the perfect combo of political statement meets market demand meets crazy. We actually wished this one was true.   OneShift launches JobSwap   Employment platform for retail and hospitality staff OneShift has launched JobSwap, a service to enable employees to swap employers and responsibilities for a couple of weeks.   From the release: “[Founder Gen] George said that although OneShift was focusing mainly on employer registrations at this stage, staff of participating businesses would be able to sign up via the website in a matter of weeks.”   This one goes into our April Fools’ lemon basket. In a business promoting themselves as pairing people with the right job, surely the idea of interchangeable staff-company fit is a bad one to promote? It’s also low on humour.   iiNet launches Pet-Fi: Wi-Fi-enabled pet collars     Another internet-related prank, iiNet has announced the launch of Pet-Fi to turn your pet into a mobile hot spot.   From the release: “Bringing you the latest advancement in Wi-Fi technology, we give you Pet-Fi, the world's first pet-powered mobile broadband solution. We know you love your pets and you love having them close-by, so why not take advantage of that? Use Pet-Fi to transform your pet into the ultimate – yet cuddly – Wi-Fi hotspot and mobile broadband modem.”   Water resistant, shock proof and almost definitely a joke, this April Fools’ prank is adorable with a hint of animal use that makes it uncomfortable enough to spur the conversation on. Though it loses points for being easily unbelievable.   Swiftly launches Fool your Friends offering     More of an enabler than a prankster in its own right, 99designs' new service Swiftly has launched a series of pictures demonstrating how the software can be used to doctor photos to fool your friends.   Unfortunately for Swiftly, which is fundamentally a design business, the images aren’t remotely convincing or aesthetically compelling. Again, an April Fools’ dud.   Google Maps launched Pokemon challenge     With ample resources and a history of fun gimmicks and Easter eggs, startup folk were quick to check the Google platforms for April Fool pranks.   This year, Google Maps released a video announcing a new position within their team: Pokemon Master.   {qtube vid:=4YMD6xELI_k}   To find the Pokemons, head to Google Maps and hit “start” without writing in anything. Quite frankly, we think the Pokemons should stay.

Turnbull calls business owner out for relying on the NBN to run her business from home

3:11AM | Tuesday, 25 March

Malcolm Turnbull was hailed a hero of the startup community this week after wading into the discussions around the shortage of available venture capital for startups.   Unfortunately, he seems to be less enthused about the policy within his own portfolio that would empower tech startups all across the nation: the national broadband network.   Small business owner Julia Keady tweeted concerns about internet access from her new home in Ocean Grove, Victoria, to the Minister for Communications and the NBN, who’s response caught the attention of a few.   @SaysJuliaKeady just curious:- if connectivity was so vital to you why did you buy a house where there was no broadband available?— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) March 20, 2014   Keady explained that her family wanted to live in regional Australia and as a small business owner, access to the internet was critical, a point Turnbull picked up on.   @SaysJuliaKeady no I am simply asking whether given the importance of bband to you, you checked availability before buying yr new house.— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) March 20, 2014   And returned to:   @SaysJuliaKeady no - just asking you a simple question which you refuse to answer.— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) March 20, 2014   Luckily for tech startups, Mr Turnbull is aware finishing the NBN is his job.   @mdhoad @SaysJuliaKeady of course it's my job to complete the NBN and I will do so sooner cheaper and more affordably than Labor cd ever do— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) March 20, 2014   The Twitter conversation, including comments from a range of people, can be viewed here.   Many in the startup community argue equipping Australia with high quality or even just adequately fast internet access would boost the ecosystem’s productivity considerably.   In September last year, Silicon Valley-based investor Bill Tai, who has backed local startups such as Canva and Shoes of Prey, told BRW the NBN was needed to help Australian startups.   “If your government would go forward with National Broadband Network (NBN) that would be great initiative for start-ups to build on,” Tai said. “It’s very controversial but if you have bandwidth – a lot of bandwidth at a low cost- things happen. Energy will flow to create more startups.”

Top five areas to start a business in 2014

1:03PM | Sunday, 5 January

When it comes to starting your own business, it can be a challenge working out what sectors have the best potential.   Business evolves with changes in technology, global developments and the whims of customers.   We spoke to Brad Callaughan, of business advisors Callaughan Partners, about which business sectors might fire in 2014 and provide lucrative opportunities.   IT and technology   Callaughan says apps and website development will be a lucrative area to start a business as internet use continues to grow.   The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in October showed broadband downloads in the three months to June 30 surged by nearly 60% on the same period last year. Mobile handset downloads have also surged as the number of people with smartphones increases.   Businesses are also increasingly taking up technology. The Sensis e-Business Report for 2013 found that 98% of small to medium enterprises have a computer, up 3% from last year, 69% have a laptop, up 10% from 2011, and 41% own tablet computers.   The report also found small business internet penetration has grown to 96% from 23% in 1997, with 60% using a website to promote themselves.   “As there is more demand for apps with each business and the development of new apps to make life easier, there will be an increase in the demand for companies that can service this area,” Callaughan says.   “Website and IT support will again be winners with the changing technology environment.   “There will also be an increase in online activity, so business will need to be up-to-date with technology and have the best equipment to be able to support this infrastructure.”   Baby boomers   It’s well documented that Australia has an ageing population.   A recent Productivity Commission report says that the number of people aged 75 years and more is expected to rise by 4 million from 2012 to 2060, increasing from about 6.4% of the population to 14.4%.   Callaughan says our ageing population and Baby Boomers have “always provided numerous business opportunities”.   But he suggests people think outside the box of just aged care housing and consider the numerous needs people have as they age and move into retirement, highlighting travel as a potential area ripe for growth.   “There will be more opportunity for services like tours and travel agents that cater to travel for retirees,” he says.   Fitness, health and beauty   With Australia ranked as one of the fattest countries in the world, the fitness and healthy living industries are likely to remain popular, and lucrative, fields to start a business.   Industry researcher IBISWorld estimates the gym and fitness industry makes $1 billion in annual revenue and is expected to grow by 4.8% a year over the next five years. IBISWorld also estimates the hairdressing and beauty services industry rakes in annual revenue of $4 billion, with the sector expected to grow by 1.3% a year for the next five years.   “Healthy living is becoming more popular but there is still a lack of knowledge surrounding clean living,” Callaughan says. “There will be opportunities within this sector to create businesses that can educated and provide healthy living services, including gyms, health food providers, consultants and pre-packaged food.”   He recommends looking to the US to see how they have approached the sector.   Callaughan says fitness, health and beauty can also tie in with the ageing population.   “There could be opportunities for gyms that cater to over 50s that have certain machines that help you work out but don’t cause injuries. You will also not have to compete with other young gym goers.”   Freelancing   Freelancing has become a popular buzz-word recently, as websites that link people to work on projects rise in popularity.   The successful listing of Australian-based online site Freelancer.com this year has also sparked interest in this way of working.   Freelancer’s shares surged to as high as $2.60 on the Australian Securities Exchange from their initial public offering price of 50 cents. The shares have since retreated to trade at around $1.05 at December 12.   “I just feel that with the recent success of Freelancer there will be more businesses looking to enter this area,” Callaughan says.   “There will also be more businesses that become freelancers and offer services to a larger range of businesses.   “The range of services that will be offered will also be expanded to include everything and anything that can be outsourced for not only businesses but individuals as well.”   Online retail   Australians have embraced online retail and are spending billions of dollars through the internet.   And it’s a trend that’s continuing to grow, albeit at a slower pace recently than seen previously.   According to the National Australia Bank’s Online Retail Sales Index, Australians spent $14.4 billion online in the 12 months to October, equivalent to 6.4% of traditional retail spending. It says monthly online sales grew by just 0.3% in October, the same as September and only marginally better than August when sales fell 0.2%.   Callaughan says online selling has taken off and will continue in 2014.   “There will be many opportunities open up in this field with even the large department stores moving to online retail,” he says.

We’re in the middle of a major shift: Google VP declares the “age of start-ups”

3:09AM | Tuesday, 11 March

Australian entrepreneurs have been urged by Google’s global vice president of engineering to tap into a major shift taking place if they want going to propel their careers and Australia’s start-up sector forward.   “We’re in the age of the start-up. There has never been a better time in the history of the planet to launch a company,” Venkat Panchapakesan told hundreds of entrepreneurs in Sydney at the Startup Spring Festival.   According to Panchapakesan, technology, data and culture were converging in three key ways.   “Entrepreneurs need to look for fundamental shifts like this, where as nimble businesses they can move in and capture the business of the entire world,” he said.   “This is not a pipe dream. This is happening and there are companies trying to use these new problems.”   The global trend of computing transcending digital systems and linking to real-life objects used by everyone offered rich opportunities and new sets of problems for start-ups to explore and exploit.   “The everywhere, anywhere, everyone trend means the data is going to explode,” he said.   ‘The problems we’re focused on have become much bigger than what Google thought when we launched in 1998.”   Panchapakesan outlined these three key changes for StartupSmart in the video below.   He added these converging trends were complimented by the rise of crowdfunding and companies such as Google offering their infrastructure, which made launching a start-up cheaper and more manageable than ever.   Citing the increasing uptake of mobile internet access, with 6.8 billion mobile phones in operation and 2.1 billion of those using mobile broadband, he said there was an increasingly massive opportunity for entrepreneurs focusing on this development and being ahead of the curve.   “It’s also about wearable computing. Wearable computing is arriving, and it’s arriving very fast,” Panchapakesan said, adding that the opportunity in Australia alone was massive, as 80% of Australians are connected to the internet and the country has the fourth highest mobile and second highest tablet penetration rate in the world.   He added that while globally scaling a business is never easy, entrepreneurs who are thinking ahead of the curve and paying attention to these emerging trends could launch major companies.   “I run Gmail, so I know how many messages we process each day, and I know growth isn’t easy,” Panchapakesan said. “The last 10 years has been the biggest ramp up of start-ups to billion dollar valuations. You could be doing that too.”

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