February 5th, 2013
Tristram Cheer lives in a busy household. As well as himself, his partner and his six-year-old step-daughter, there is a boarder in a spare room and a renter living in a garage flat. There are also lots of computers – five laptops and a PC at last count, plus all the devices (smart phones, smart TV x2, PS3, Wii, Tablet x2) that go with four connected 20-something adults and a child of game-playing age.
Internet usage is high too, what with streaming music, Quickflix, video, and TVNZ online. Luckily for his household, Tristram works for a retail service provider, Uber Group in Whangarei. When, in 2011, he was offered the chance to be one of the first trial UFB residential customers, he couldn’t wait. His old ADSL-style connection worked OK, he says, but one person’s heavy usage would affect everyone else.
“We shaped our usage around the connection we had. If one person was doing something involving video or music it would slow everyone else down. Downloading a YouTube video could knock out usage for 5-10 minutes. If I had some critical work to do in the evenings I had the choice of going into the office or doing it at home and kicking everyone else off. And even then, from home it could take me 10 minutes to open a big file. Now I can do it in seconds.”In September 2011, Tristram’s household finally got its UFB connection. He’s on a fairly grunty plan – download and upload speeds of 50Mbps, and a 150Gb data cap. It would be costing him $99 if he wasn’t getting it free on the trial, but that’s no more than his total telecommunications spend before, as his UFB plan also comes with a free phone line. It is definitely worth it, he says.
“We are heavy users of UFB. Every morning [my step daughter] Emily goes in and chucks on Quickflix and watches kids programmes, there’s music streaming for 4-5 hours a day on three different Spotify accounts, there’s TVNZ on demand and Youtube. My partner’s family is in the UK, so there’s Skype going on, and because Skype has bandwidth scaling, we get a better quality picture.”
It’s revolutionised Tristram’s work life too. As a network architect for Uber, he often has to work on the system when it’s at its quietest – in the middle of the night. Instead of sitting in a cold server room at 1am, he can work from the couch, with a coffee. And even when he’s rebuilding a server, diagnosing a fault, or working with video documents or other big files, the speeds are the same as if he was plugged into the server at work.
Now the company is trialling teleworking – Tristram working half the day in the office and half at home.
“All the studies show people are more productive from home, and that’s the same with me. If there’s a meeting in the office, we can make it a video call. And if I’m sick I can still do some work from home while I’m recuperating – I’m not a complete loss in terms of productivity. As IT infrastructure moves towards the cloud, it won’t matter where you do your work from, as long as you have good connectivity.”
And the future? What will Tristram’s housemates be using UFB for in five years’ time? Basically, he has no idea.
“No one saw the killer app for full speed DSL in 2001. No one saw YouTube or Facebook coming, no one thought about streaming video over the internet. It’s a case of ‘build it and they will come’. When connectivity reaches a tipping point, apps will be created, and I guarantee it will be something no one saw coming.”