Comms tech pulls down Australia’s digital competitiveness ranking

Australia’s communications technology profile has been flagged as a key contributing factor to the country’s slide in the latest international digital competitiveness rankings collated by Switzerland’s IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Australia slipped one place to 14 in the 2019 IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking, which assesses the digital competitiveness of 63 nations. Australia’s ranking in 2018 came in at 13, while in 2015, the country was ranked ninth overall.

Key weaknesses contributing to Australia’s ranking fall included business agility, technology skills and communications technology, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), which is the Australian partner of the IMD World Competitive Center.

The ranking system rates national performance in three areas: knowledge, technology and future readiness, with further sub-factors considered under each of these elements, including communications technology and internet bandwidth speed.

CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento said that in the technology area, Australia’s communications technology subcategory ranking remained poor, at 54. Australia’s internet bandwidth speed subcategory ranking in the latest report, meanwhile, was 38.

Cilento suggested the results showed Australia had more work to do if it is to keep pace with other economies.

“The results highlight that we need a broader national community discussion around the importance of R&D, investment in technology, and tech skills and how the benefits of these flow back to the community,” she said.

By contrast, New Zealand’s communications technology subcategory ranking came in at 27, although the country’s overall digital competitiveness ranking was 18, one up from the previous year’s ranking, but four places lower than its ranking in 2017. In terms of internet bandwidth speed, New Zealand outstripped Australia, coming in at number 20.

According to Cilento, another area of concern for Australia is the development of tech skills.

“While the Australian community has an appetite for new technology with a high uptake of smartphones and tablets, ranking ninth and third respectively, we don’t rank well in terms of higher technical skills,” Cilento said. “Australia ranked 44 on digital/technological skills and employee training, and 53 on graduates in sciences.”

There were some bright spots for Australia too, according to Cilento, who highlighted factors such as flow of international students, country credit rating, tablet possession and e-government – all areas where Australia was ranked among the top five countries globally.

Globally, the top five ranking countries in the 2019 IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking were United States, in the number one spot, followed by Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland. These remained unchanged from the previous year’s ranking.

NBN Co debuts new business bundles and online matchmaker tool

NBN Co, the company rolling out the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN), has launched the raft of discount business bundles it first flagged last year, along with a new online service to help match businesses with the products most relevant to them.

NBN Co first announced plans to introduce new wholesale business-grade discount bundles over the fixed line network in December 2018, its stated goal to help improve customer experience and better meet the demands of Australian businesses.

At the time, the company said that, for the first time, the new services would combine access to high speeds, committed bandwidth and premium service levels in a discounted charge, largely designed to deliver significant savings for retail service providers (RSPs).

The new fixed line wholesale discount offerings include the business NBN Basic Bundle, which comes with wholesale speeds of 50/20Mbps or 100/40Mbps, optimised for smaller businesses.

For medium-sized businesses, the business NBN Premium Bundle S includes wholesale speeds of 50/20Mbps or 100/40Mbps with symmetrical committed speeds of 1/1Mbps, with the bundle designed for multiple phone lines.

Meanwhile, the business NBN Premium Bundle M comes with wholesale symmetrical committed speeds of 20/20Mbps with a minimum of 100/40Mbps peak information rate. This bundle is designed for medium to large businesses requiring highly reliable networks to carry their business-critical applications.

At the top end of the new offerings, the business NBN Premium Bundle L provides wholesale symmetrical committed speeds of 50/50Mbps and a minimum of 250/100Mbps peak information rate, aimed at meeting the needs of data-intensive and multi-site organisations.

The new bundles also come with a minimum 12-hour enhanced service level agreement with 24/7 support between NBN Co and the service retailer. At the same time, selected wholesale discount bundles also include the option to install a subsequent line to test critical applications before connecting to the network.

Timed to coincide with the launch of the new bundles, NBN Co’s new solution finder is an online tool designed to help businesses understand the most appropriate type of services and products network RSPs may be able to offer them.

“The business [NBN] solution finder is an easy to use online tool that will help businesses order the most suitable business-grade solution available from their internet provider,” said NBN Co chief customer officer Paul Tyler.

According to NBN Co, research shows that many businesses in Australia may not be connected to the best broadband plan to suit their needs, with the majority of home-based businesses using residential broadband plans instead of plans designed for business use.

“For businesses of all sizes, it’s important that they select the appropriate business [NBN] solution to meet their needs, including the right speeds, committed bandwidth and service level assurance,” Tyler said.

The launch of the new services and the online tool come as NBN Co begins work on an industry-wide wholesale pricing review consultation paper to some 50 retail service providers selling NBN plans to residential and business customers, and special interest groups such as ACCAN.

The consultation paper will seek industry feedback on areas such as improving customer experience with the right pricing, promoting the take-up of NBN services by under-serviced segments and developing a sustainable business model that will enable NBN Co to continue to upgrade and maintain its network.

Ooredoo: Broadband crucial for sustainable development according to UN

Broadband technologies are driving substantial transformation in a range of sectors, including health, education, financial inclusion and the environment, making them a key accelerator towards achieving of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to The State of Broadband 2018: Broadband Catalyzing Sustainable Development report.

The report was released ahead of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s autumn meeting in New York City on 23 September.

Issued annually, The State of Broadband report is a unique global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against key advocacy targets set by the Commission in 2011.

According to the report, although a majority of the world’s population (52% or 3.7 billion) currently remain unconnected, the number of total Internet users continues to grow strongly, with annual Internet growth rates above 5%. The report predicts that there will be nearly 4.4 billion active mobile broadband subscriptions globally by end 2018, showcasing the potential for expanding the reach of the mobile digital economy.

Meanwhile, Ooredoo a primary comms company operating across the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, said that in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders, it will continue its delivery of universal broadband services to developing regions and nations. The firm added its sustained investments in infrastructure and innovation aimed to bridge the digital divide.:

“The report shines light on the crucial role of broadband connectivity in advancing sustainable development,” said Ooredoo Group CEO H.E. Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Al Thani. “As we deploy the power of digital technology to give people access to the services and support they need, we urge governments, operators and regulators to continue working closely together to address the deepening digital inequality in global connectivity.”

The report also found that 48% of the global population is now online but there are still some 3.7 billion people who do not have Internet access. While it recognizes the strong growth in broadband markets that is being accompanied by rapid technological innovation, it also raises concerns for the growing inequalities in access to broadband that exist between developed and developing countries.

Emphasizing the importance of building an inclusive digital society that is accessible by all, the Commission outlines “4 I’s” –  Infrastructure, Investment, Innovation and Inclusivity –  which are central to the Commission’s strategy of expanding access to broadband and helping accelerate the achievement of all United Nations’ SDGs.

Ooredoo said its investment is recognised in the report, which highlights its advancement toward 5G and collaboration with Nokia on early 5G trials in Qatar. “Ooredoo has invested heavily in rolling out the next generation technology to deliver superior mobile experiences for its customers and ensure that Qatar is at the forefront of 5G developments and the 5G ecosystem,” it added.

 

ITU flags positive impact of broadband, digital transformation

A new study published by the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations agency for ICT,  has outlined the positive impact of broadband, digitization and effective regulation on national economies.

The agency’s The economic contribution of broadband, digitization and ICT regulation report has found that an increase in both fixed and mobile broadband penetration has a positive impact on the economy.

In terms of digital transformation, the study shows that the economic impact of the digital ecosystem is greater than that resulting from fixed broadband and similar to that produced by mobile broadband penetration.

The study also found that effective policy and regulatory frameworks can drive growth in the digital ecosystem.

“With this landmark study, we can now quantify the impact of broadband and digital transformation on economic growth,” said  ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Investment in ICT infrastructure is an absolute priority to expand access to broadband services, and to help accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The economic impact of fixed and mobile broadband

The study finds that fixed broadband has had a significant impact on the world economy in the past seven years. The economic impact of fixed broadband is found to be higher in more developed countries than in less developed, while the economic impact of mobile broadband is found to be higher in less developed countries than in more developed countries.

Overall, an increase of 1 per cent in fixed broadband penetration yields a 0.08 per cent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while an increase of 1 per cent in mobile broadband penetration yields a 0.15 per cent increase in GDP (this translates into an increase of 10 per cent in fixed or mobile broadband penetration yielding an average increase of 0.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively in GDP).

The economic impact of digital transformation

The study reveals that the economic impact of digitization is higher than that of fixed broadband and similar to that of mobile broadband. According to the study, achieving broadband penetration is only one aspect of required policies; maximization of the economic impact of digitization can only be achieved through the adoption of a holistic set of policies ranging from Internet access and computing to electronic commerce. It also recognizes that the digital ecosystem has an economic impact on productivity.

The impact of policy and regulatory frameworks

The ITU said the study offered further evidence of the importance of regulatory and institutional variables in driving growth in the digital ecosystem. It states that connectivity for digital services is significantly correlated with the level of advancement of ICT policies and regulations, as well as the competition and market power regulatory set-up. Further, investment in the digital ecosystem is directly and positively influenced by the maturity of ICT regulatory frameworks and by ICT competition frameworks.

Kiwi roundup: 5G, rural broadband acceleration and cybersecurity expansion

Cisco becomes first collaborator in Spark 5G innovation hub

Spark has announced that Cisco is the first of several collaborators it will be working with to prepare and test the parameters for a Kiwi 5G network as it aims to help Kiwi businesses “win big in a digital world.”

Cisco signed an agreement earlier this month to contribute services, technology and capability to the hub which will develop, test and prepare for 5G deployment.

The hub will see vendors, developers and application provides working together on innovations. Spark chief operating officer Mark Beder says 5G will create endless opportunities for innovation of products and services in New Zealand, transforming the way we live, work and play through significantly faster speeds and considerably more capacity.

“The purpose of the 5G innovation hub is to start planning and testing use cases that’ll help New Zealand business win big in a digital world,” Beder said.

Cisco ANZ sales and operations director for service providers Andrew Findlay said the hub will allow Kiwi companies to work with Cisco’s programmable networking technology within a 5G sandbox.

Spark has already trialled 5G in Wellington and Auckland, achieving speeds of 18.23 Gigabits a second.

Rural broadband rollout jumps ahead

Work on phase two of the Rural Broadband Initiative and Mobile Black Spot Fund builds will be “substantially” finished by the end of 2021 – a year ahead of schedule according to Communications Minister Clare Curran.

Rural communities not covered by the RBI2 and its expansion project will be able to apply for funding from the NZ$1 billion Provincial Growth Fund.

“There is enormous untapped potential in our provinces – we have businesses with ideas and ambitions but they need infrastructure like high-speed broadband to compete equally in our 21st century economy,” Curran said. “We want to let them know we are supporting them, and to let them know what’s coming down the line.”

Curran said the Labour led government intends to grow ICT to be the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025.

Malware-Free Networks expands

The GCSB, New Zealand’s public service agency charged with promoting national security, is expanding its Malware-Free Networks cyber defence initiative to provide protection to more Kiwi organisations.

Andrew Little, the minister responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau said expanding the service will “significantly” increase the range of organisations receiving the cyber defence services Government offers New Zealand’s organisations of national significance through the GCSB.

Organisations of national significance include Government departments, key economic generators, niche exporters, research institutions and critical national infrastructure.

The expansion follows a pilot with Vodafone and some of the telco’s customers.

Little said the pilot showed Malware-Free Networks has “the potential to disrupt a significant volume of malicious cyber activity.”

The GCSB is developing a plan to work with telco network operators to deliver the expanded service, which is expected to take a couple of months. The GCSB already provides its Cortex cyber defence offering to nationally significant organisations.

SamKnows to monitor Kiwi broadband

The Commerce Commission has awarded a nationwide programme to monitor New Zealand’s broadband performance to a UK-based company, SamKnows.

The testing previously been managed by Kiwi company TrueNet, which announced earlier this year that it was closing after learning it had lost the contract.

Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said the programme is costing NZ$2.8 million over three years, under SamKnows.

“SamKnows was a standout applicant. It is considered to be a world leader in internet service performance, currently assessing broadband performance for about half of the world’s internet population,” Dr Gale said.

THE KIWI ROUNDUP: THE WEEK’S TELCO HAPPENINGS IN NZ

Soaring broadband consumption, a Vodafone sale, Spark’s Cisco deal and Vocus shuts down an automated phone scam… We take a look at some of this week’s key news in the New Zealand market.

Vocus shuts down automated phone scam

A phone scam, where callers received an automated message claiming to be from police and threatening the recipient with arrest if they don’t pay money to Inland Revenue was shut down by Vocus Group, according to New Zealand Police.

More than 2,400 calls were made to New Zealand phones before Vocus detected the campaign and was able to stop it, police said. Police received numerous complaints about the scam.

Vocus Group CTO Adrian Dick said the telecommunications company uses sophisticated scam monitoring tools, and was able to block the number being used for the scam calls and then alert other telcos and the Police High Tech Crime Group.

Detective Sergeant Damain Rapira-Davies warned that people need to look after their personal details in the same way they would a wallet or personal possessions.

Kiwi broadband demand sees usage double in two years – 680GB/month forecast for 2020

Broadband use in New Zealand has soared from an average of 101GB per household in April 2016 to a whopping 204GB in April 2018, according to new figures from Chorus.

Chorus is forecasting average monthly data per household of 680GB come 2020.

Kurt Rodgers, Chorus network strategy manager, said in 2011 the average use in households was just 13GB.

“In the space of a few years, the demand has gone through the roof,” he said. “And there’s no sign of the demand slowing. Our view is that ever-increasing data demands and the evolution of new data-hungry devices and applications, such as 4K televisions and virtual reality, will only continue to fuel the demand for bandwidth.

April’s figures cover the Commonwealth Games, which were streamed by national broadcaster TVNZ, and school holiday period.

Vodafone ups rural broadband push

Vodafone has snapped up telecommunications service provider Team Talk’s remaining 30% stake in rural broadband provider Farmside.

Vodafone New Zealand acquired 70% of Farmside in June 2017 for $10 million in cash in a deal that included options to enable Team Talk to sell its remaining stake to Vodafone for $3 million cash at any time over the following three years.

Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners said the deal deepens the telco’s commitment to rural communities.

“With Farmside now firmly part of the Vodafone whānau [family], we can continue to deliver better outcomes for these communities and increase our presence in the rural broadband market,” Stanners said.

No immediate major changes are expected in the operation of Farmside, which will continue to be based in Timaru providing all its current services.

The change of ownership takes effect at midnight May 31, 2018.

Spark NZ adds to UC offerings

Spark New Zealand is adding BroadSoft’s cloud-based unified communications offerings to its lineup.

The new deal will see Spark offering a suite of UC services, including instant message and presence, hosted voice, mobile client support, a full-featured soft client for computing devices, desktop and file sharing, virtual meeting rooms and voice and video conferencing, based on BroadSoft’s UC-One application.

Broadsoft is now part of Cisco. The new service, which will hit the market ‘in the first half of this year’, will be branded Spark Cloud Phone.

Sally Gordon, Spark head of business marketing, said business customers have been asking for a feature-rich calling solution to help improve collaboration, and which can easily scale as business needs change.