December 21st, 2011
Being an early adopter tends to be both exciting and frustrating. Exciting – because you’re at the cutting edge of what you know is going to be “big”. Frustrating – because it takes a while before other people catch up. You can imagine a 1960s housewife telling an early television salesperson: “I can see the pictures might be interesting, but that set costs more than a new transistor, and there aren’t that many programmes on. Thanks, but really, my radio gives me everything I need.”
Hayden Simon, founder and director of Northland internet service provider, UberGroup, has been dreaming fast broadband for seven years, building masts on top of Northland hills for the past six and selling services for about the same. With 112 sites now, from Pakiri in the south to Houhora in the North, Hayden has seen the amount of time it takes to send big data files around the region go from 10 minutes to a few seconds. (And that makes a lot of difference if you are a photographer with 100 wedding photos to upload so a client can make a choice.)
Hayden is excited by the opportunities from linking Government-built Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) in Whangarei to his wireless network elsewhere. There’s the potential for real cost-savings for customers. For example, an accountancy firm with a main office in Whangarei and smaller outposts in the Hokianga and Kaitaia, might be paying $600 per month now for a fast connection between the sites; which would have cost more than $2000 in 2010.
The frustration is that once you’ve connected the 50 or so sizeable Northland businesses (plus some hospitals and schools) for whom UFB is a no-brainer, selling the concept gets hard. Some small to medium enterprises which currently use the internet mostly for sending emails, or downloading the odd You Tube video at lunchtime, can’t immediately see the benefits of Ultra-Fast Broadband. Many of the more obviously useful applications such as high quality video conferencing, or cloud based document sharing need fast connections at both ends, meaning businesses’ customers or partners need to be on UFB too.
But Hayden’s confident that the frustrations of an early adopter will disappear as UFB gets rolled out, and the powerful “network effect” of UFB is achieved. Once a big city like Auckland gets connected, momentum will start building and in time new mass market applications such as affordable movie downloads will bring UFB into the mainstream. To put that in context, how many people do you know that don’t have a TV?