Australia Behind the Ball With Broadband

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] Australia will fall “far behind” the rest of the world in terms of broadband adoption thanks largely to prohibitive Government policy, according to findings from analyst firm Gartner.

Bob Hayward, senior vice president of operations at Gartner Asia Pacific forecast just three percent of Australian businesses and two percent of residential consumers will adopt broadband by 2003. Howard made the comments at Gartner’s Symposium and IT expo in Brisbane, which hosted around 2000 delegates.

Hayward added that the wireless Internet will become the catalyst for major upheaval in the IT&T industries, but said that the focus must now be on ensuring the infrastructure is in place to enable this evolution.

Gartner’s Symposium explored the reasons for a need for new infrastructure, with speaker Bob Egan commenting that current approaches to mobile technology are “dead ends”. Egan predicted that by 2002, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) will be replaced by generic XML-based standards as the primary means to deliver content to mobiles.

“Access to plentiful, cheap broadband services and infrastructure to enable the wireless Web are critical to the future of Australia’s economy,” said Hayward. “In three or four years, we see wireless as being the dominant means of accessing the Internet, and more aggressively used in places like Asia and Northern Europe than in the U.S.”

Although the wireless Internet could present business opportunities within Australia, Hayward said that Gartner sees an area of concern in the “lack of progress regarding broaddband technologies, which will impact e-business, enterprise remote access, as well as digital TV.”

“Australia risks being left behind if we lack the infrastructure to participate fully,” Hayward added.

Hayward pointed to the obvious nature of this issue when he referred to Bill Gates recently admonishing Telstra managing director Ziggy Switkowski for the telco’s slow broadband development.

As well looking to what Gartner sees as less than impressive progress in broadband among infrastructure developers, the analyst firm has also pointed the finger of blame at the Federal Government.

“If government policy continues we’ll see high prices, limited competition and consequential slow adoption. That will see Australia lag behind many other nations in Europe and Asia,” said Gartner research director Geoff Johnson.

The Federal Government’s policies particularly on broadband content have caused controversy across the industry, as it limits the content non free-to-air broadcasters can offer on digital TV according to time and the scope of genre available.

Industry advocates and non-broadcaster broadband content developers have already decried the policy variously as unfair, baised and constrictive to the potential of the local broadband content industry.

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