Crosstalk

Crosstalk

Australia

CrossTalk is the telecommunications industry's weekly podcast, covering everything from technology and marketing through to policy and politics. It is presented each week by Phil Dobbie, a broadcaster and journalist who was worked in senior marketing and management roles in many online and telecommunications businesses.

Episodes

NBN Migration - still not right?  

The government has outlined a framework for migrating customers to the NBN, with a threat of regulatory action on the industry if the process isn't smoothed out. Last year Tony Warren, Telstra's Head of Regulatory Affairs, said that the process needed to be fixed and the Comms Alliance was the logical body to coordinate improvements. Today it seems to have fallen on the NBN to work through the detail and, whilst they say things have got better, there is a lot of room for improvement in how services are installed and activated. So, does the government's paper help the situation. Phil Dobbie argues the four pillars are so high-level and the issue seems to be in the detailed execution. We hear from: Katarzyna Stapleton, Executive General Manager Disconnections & Migration at nbn; Christine Williams, Telstra’s Director of Equivalence; and Paul Brooks, Board Director, Internet Australia Do you have something to add? Leave a message on 02 9304 5198.

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Will the NBN keep up with demand?  

No sooner had NBN released its Network Design Rules document than one blogger was questioning whether the 2Gbps uplink capacity per node was enough to cater for peak demand. After all, Cisco is forecasting 29 percent annual growth in peak demand from Australian internet users, and that prediction was made before the arrival of Netflix. NBN says it’s not a big issue. As explained in this week’s Crosstalk, upgrading requires changing an optical switch, not the costly process of adding more fibre. So, the NBN probably has a few years life in it, helped by new standards that could see peak speeds delivered across vectored VDSL double over the next few years. Again, without the need to lay more fibre. But what when we do eventually demand more capacity and speed? Running fibre to the premises could be three times the expense – something that won’t be undertaken whilst the NBN is rushing to pay-off if it’s investment in the original build. Could NBN’s debt slow down our progress and see us lag behind the rest of the world? This week we talk to: - Stefaan Vanhastel, Director Product Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent - Kevin Bloch, Chief Technology Officer at Cisco - John DeRidder, Telecommunications Economist

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New law will see Government get to grips with network design  

The Attorney General (AG) has circulated draft legislation that will give the Government greater control over how networks are designed and maintained. The belief is that the commercial pressures of carriers and carriage service providers are at odds with the objectives of national security. The new Bill - Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 – would give new powers to the Government to remedy the issue. The AG’s department would provide administrative guidelines so carriers can understand what parts of their networks are vulnerable to unauthorised access and interference, so appropriate action can be taken. Carriers would also need to seek approval before making substantive changes to their network design. As you’ll hear in this week’s CrossTalk podcast, some in the industry believe it’s a step in the right direction. After all, why would anybody be against national security? The concern is, will the Government be so prescriptive the impact will be counterproductive, and costly for the industry. We hear from: - Patrick Fair, partner at law firm Baker & McKenzie - Matthew Lobb, ‎General Manager Industry Strategy and Public Policy at Vodafone - George Fong, President of Internet Australia and - Mark Gregory, Senior Lecturer at RMIT University Add your comments by calling the CrossTalk feedback line - 02 9304 5198

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ACCC not sold on Telstra’s Double Dipping  

The ACCC has revised its decision on access pricing, saying wholesalers should be paying more than 9.6 percent less to Telstra. Whilst ACCC chair Rod Sims expects the savings to be passed on to consumers, CommsDay’s Kevin Morgan says it will simply see the margins passed to Telstra’s competitors who, he says, are already madding a tidy profit from ULL services. Whatever your take, the issue is relatively short lived as consumers move over to the NBN. Then, the more important consideration will be the cost of backhaul. The ACCC are giving careful consideration on the cost of these services, with John Lindsay saying the outcome will impact all service providers and the future viability of the NBN. That’s all!

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The Internet of What Things?  

Last week the Communications Alliance workshopped issues that will arise from the Internet of Things – technically and regulatory. But do we have a clear vision of what the IoT is? A survey this month from Progress software showed that more than half of developers didn’t use the term Internet of Things, largely because they found it meaningless. Our guests on CrossTalk this week agree that data is at the heart of it, and it’s that data that raises the most ethical questions, particularly if, in a Google-like fashion, the revenues from the IoT largely come from selling that data or targeting marketing activity based on it. Could the utilities often talked about – like health, smart-homes and smart-cars, just be a small slice of the internet of things, where marketers go crazy with your data? This week we hear from: John Stanton from the Communications Alliance Rob Zagarella, National Narrowband Network Communications Ian Davidson, GoFar Will Scully Power, Datarati Paul Brooks, Internet Australia and Andres Torres, Ericsson

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Broadband and mobile are growing, but is it fast enough?  

Ericsson and Cisco have both released reports highlighting the growth in data usage, internet speeds and device adoption. Not surprisingly, the figures are all on the rise. Yet, with the exception of mobile data speeds, we rate poorly compared to similar economies. A new report from the Centre for Independent Economics might explain part of the reason. It says Telstra customers are paying a $3.1 billion monthly premium for their services. Vodafone’s Dan Lloyd says this is unique in the world and shows there are structural issues that need to be addressed in the telecommunications landscape. If these issues were fixed, would Australia fare better on the global stage, and would our economy benefit as a result? This week on CrossTalk we hear from: - Andres Torres, strategic marketing manager at Ericsson - Kevin Bloch, CTO at Cisco Australia - Dan Lloyd, Chief Strategy Officer at Vodafone Australia

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Will new contracts fix NBN's rollout problems?  

NBN’s history has been blighted by poor relationships with construction contractors. Has the new team fixed the problem? In the past, NBN’s immediate partners complained of inconsistent placement of work, whilst subcontractors argued that they were being squeezed on margins and, in some cases, left out to dry. Some have gone insolvent. NBN has now announced a new approach to industry management. Five partners have signed a Multi-technology Integrated Master Agreement (MIMA). This week on CrossTalk we talk about the new agreement with Sandra Dodds, chief executive of infrastructure at Transfield and Michael Doherty, industry management at NBN. Will this approach cure the dysfunction of the past and ensure NBN meets its aggressive targets?

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Copyright law will help the Government’s website blocking  

A government review has concluded that there are only minor changes needed to how agencies enforce website blocking, but it seems to ignore the impending changes to copyright law. Under section 313 of the Telecommunications Act companies have to do their best to help government agencies enforce the law, including blocking websites. Many simply can’t fulfil the request because, as Paul Brooks highlights, many don’t have the equipment required to do it. A review by the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications saw no problem with a broad range of government agencies having the ability to block sites in the course of their duties, but saw the need for more expertise within the departments after the incident where ASIC accidentally blocked a quarter of a million websites, instead of just a handful. Laurie Patton, CEO of Internet Australia, welcomes the recommendations and says, whether you agree with blocking or not, there needs to be a focus on ensuring it is done correctly. But there are ramifications from the Copyright Amendment Bill, discussed with Patrick Fair from law firm Baker and McKenzie. If the Bill is passed as drafted, all telcos will need to have blocking equipment in place, which increases the powers of government agencies to use it for their own purposes. Doesn’t this mean there’s a need for a more stringent method of oversight? Like a Judge, for example.

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Hong Kong Takes Fibre to the Curtain  

Hong Kong Telecom has moved on from providing fibre to the basement, with more than 80 percent of households able to receive fibre right to their home. Now they are reaching further into the home, offering services that utilise their network. As HKT CTO Paul Berriman remarks, they’re even selling curtains, part of a mix of home network solutions. The success of HKT really started with the establishment of their TV Now Pay-TV service, bundled with broadband to reduce churn, which helped justify the rollout of faster fibre-based networks. Whilst he admits that for many 30 Mbps is enough, there is an insatiable appetite for speed in Hong Kong, driven by infrastructure competition, and the arrival of 4K TV (and higher definition services) will help fill the pipes. In the meantime, their experiences provide a useful insight for Australian operators, and raises the question, how long before we need to see fibre delivered all the way to the home?

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Time for a rethink on the USO?  

At the CommsDay Australasia Satellite Forum this week Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Communications Minister, raised questions about the future of the Universal Services Obligation. Should it be the responsibility of the NBN? Optus’s Head of Interconnect and Economic Regulations Andrew Sheridan agrees. He says that, even if copper is still needed to provide voice services in the interim, NBN should manage the transition because they won’t have any reason to prolong its life more than is necessary. CommsDay’s Kevin Morgan goes one step further and suggests we could do away with the USO altogether. After all, all over the world, people are moving to mobile as their preferred choice for voice calls. And for many low income households, mobile is the cheaper option. Paul Fletcher says the time is right for the industry to provide evidence of the need for change, adding he can’t see the current agreement with Telstra being renegotiated in a hurry. After all, it’s scheduled to finish in 2032!

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Why Verizon wants to buy AOL  

Earlier this week Verizon announced that it plans to buy AOL in a deal worth $4.4 billion. So what are they after? In the past telcos acquired media players for their content – remember the AOL Time Warner merger? Not a big success story. Foad Fadaghi, Managing Director at Telsyte, says this week’s acquisition is very different. Whilst content is part of the deal, it is more to do with advertising technology. In media-land they call it programmatic – the technique to serve targeted content across multiple devices. On this week’s Crosstalk, Mitch Waters, ANZ Managing Director for AOL platforms describes how Tim Armstrong, their CEO, has been busy acquiring leading ad-tech companies, leading to the recent launch of their One advertising platform. Graham Christie, a board member at the Mobile Marketing Association, says the opportunity is huge for telcos, who should be "sitting on the crown jewels" when it comes to understanding and profiling mobile users. Buying AOL is Verizon’s way of capitalising on this opportunity. What will local telcos do?

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Why the sudden need for scale?  

TPG wants to buy iiNet, so does the M2 Group. Meanwhile Vocus and Amcom want to merge, but TPG wants to stop them. Perhaps they’re next on the TPG menu. So, what will happen next? Who will be iiNet’s successful bidder, and what happens to the party that loses out? Nathan Burley, Director Telecommunications in the Equities Research Division at the Commonwealth Bank, talks us through the scenarios. We also look at what’s driving this round of acquisitions? Telco consultant and former iiNet CTO John Lindsay suggests the ACCC is to blame. In their quest to engender competition have they actually driven consolidation in the industry? He also reckons if M2 loses out in the bid for iiNet they’ll be next to be eaten by the successful bidder. Interesting times in telco land.

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Did New Zealand get it right on broadband?  

Australia and New Zealand embarked on high speed broadband roll-outs around the same time. Their approach, it seems, is cheaper, faster – with more reliance on fibre - and has been quicker to deploy. So what’s the difference? Well, they didn’t trust it in the hands of a government agency. Instead Crown Fibre Holdings offered tenders to private sector businesses, including the newly separated incumbent Chorus, and power companies used to infrastructure roll outs. As Dr Ross Patterson, partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Waters lawyers in Auckland, explains, prices have also been kept down by the competitive tension created by retaining the existing copper network. As Australia's NBN moves slowly ahead, is it really too late to adopt some of the New Zealand approach here? Would Telstra agree to separate sooner for the chance to build and own a chunk of the NBN?

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Price could kill the NBN, not the speed  

NBN detractors only question whether it’ll deliver the speed we demand. It’s less of an issue than the question of price. For some time in the industry the question of CVC charges has been the biggest bone of contention. This is the price a service provider pays to connect their own network to the NBN access network. It’s a flat rate, per Mbps charge. The more your users consume at peak time, the higher the charge. As we’ve heard, in recent weeks, peak time capacity has escalated since the arrival of Netflix. As iiNet CTO Mark Dioguardi revealed at this week’s CommsDay Summit in Sydney, the content provider now accounts for 25 percent of their traffic. This demand is only set to increase as more people watch TV online. Yet, whilst capacity demand increases exponentially, NBNCo’s CVC charges apply a flate rate per Mbps. As Bevan Slattery points out, the government needs to swallow some cost and reduce the CVC charge to about $1 per mbps. Either that, or the government faces an angry public, confronted with the most expensive broadband in the world.

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Is the NBN Fast Enough For Home Workers  

Is the NBN being designed in a way that will boost productivity by encouraging more of us to work from home? People have been talking about telecommuting for decades, yet research from the University of South Australia indicates only 16 percent of us do it on a regular basis. The Department of Communications has a Telework calculator (https://www.telework.gov.au)to show some of the benefits, but is there enough focus at NBNCo in helping to realise the potential? This week we hear how Vaughan Klein Cisco’s, General Manager of Collaboration for the ANZ region, manages to work from home two days a week – and his home is a cattle property 360km from Sydney. For him, the biggest benefit the NBN will provide is bigger download allowances for his wireless connection. Gary McLaren, formerChief Technology officer at NBNCo, says that there needs to be an understanding of the importance of upload speeds and is concerned that, after the NBN is delivered, who will have the upgrade path for high end users. Whilst Natalie Skinner, a senior research fellow at the University of South Australia, talks through some of the findings from the Australian Work and Life Index. Working from home can be a good thing, unless it simply means more unpaid work and less time with the family. This week we look at home working from all angles and ask whether NBNCo needs to consider specific products for small business and home workers, just as it has for larger businesses with fibre connections.

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How Dallas Buyers Lost the Battle They Won  

The copyright owners for the movie Dallas Buyers Club won a court battle against iiNet this week, but the ruling could scupper any plans for speculative invoicing, making action against suspected copyright infringers prohibitively expensive. Could this be an example of what awaits us – expensive litigation and extensive legislation that achieves little in the end? Earlier this year in Canada there was talk about VPN providers having to alert customers suspected of piracy. It’s unlikely it’ll happen here – mainly because most VPNs are based overseas – but, some could come under the jurisdiction of the new metadata retention law, at ministerial discretion. Meanwhile, could sending out piracy notices drive more people onto VPNs to avoid scrutiny? We hear from: John Stanton, CEO of the Communications Alliance Patrick Fair, Partner at law firm Baker McKenzie Dr Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa Paul Brooks, owner of Layer10 Consulting

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Will you be paying for Netflix, whether you want to or not?  

Netflix has arrived in Australia. Are their competitors worried? Not really. Stephen Langsford, the CEO of Quickflix, says their presence will help to grow the market. Perhaps it’s the ISPs who should be most concerned. As John Lindsay points out, too many customers streaming 4Mbps content will cost a lot, particularly if NBNCo was to continue charging $17.50 per Mbps (the CVC charge) for connectivity to its access network. As demand increases CVC costs will come down, but will they fall enough to cater for more and more households streaming content at the same time? Doesn’t it mean ISPs will need to increase their costs. If that’s the case, doesn’t it also mean you’ll be paying for Netflix, even if you don’t subscribe to it? Presented by Phil Dobbie for CommsDay. SUBSCRIBE TO CROSSTALK ON ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/cross-talk/id597713172?mt=2

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Website blocking: the easy way to protect copyright, but does it work?  

The government has introduced the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015. It will enable copyright owners to approach the Federal Court to request an injunction against an overseas website if its primary purpose is the infringement of copyright. ISPs will then be required to block those sites. Just how that is done is not covered in the legislation. Paul Brooks, Director of the Internet Society of Australia, says using DNS look-up is ineffective and adding redirects will impact on the trust and integrity of the Internet. Patrick Fair, partner at law firm Baker and McKenzie, looks at how the revised copyright law could work in practice, whilst John Stanton , CEO of the Communications Alliance, cites it as another piece of legislation that should have had some direct industry consultation. Meanwhile, the UK has been blocking pirate sites for more than two years. James Blessing, chair of ISPA, Britain’s Internet Service Providers Association, suggests what we could learn from their experience.

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iiNet takeover the least of our competitive worries  

Despite protestations from The Greens it seems highly unlikely that the ACCC will reject TPG’s $1.4 billion takeover of iiNet. It simply creates another sizeable player to challenge the dominance of Telstra. It’s a move welcomed by Warwick Davis, economist at Frontier Economics and Matthew Lobb, GM Industry Strategy and Public Policy at Vodafone Australia. But they have other concerns about the level of competition in Australia’s telecommunications market. Even though the ACCC’s recent annual report on telecommunications says competition continues to deliver benefits to consumers, we remain seventh from the bottom in the OECD table of broadband speeds, according to figures from Akamai. So, why is competition failing to deliver? And can we learn anything from Israel, the country whose broadband speeds have increased faster than anybody else in the OECD, thanks to investment by Baraq, which Mai Barakat, a senior analyst at Ovum in the UK, describes as a near monopoly in fixed-line services. This week Crosstalk examines the factors influencing competition and asks whether the ACCC needs to do a little more digging before declaring that its delivering “lower retail prices, more consumer choice at the retail and infrastructure level, more innovation and greater investment in networks and technology”.

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What price, the last mile?  

This week the ACCC reached a draft decision on how much access seekers should pay Telstra for fixed line services on Telstra’s network. As usual, everyone is disappointed. Telstra had argued that prices should rise (by more than 7 percent), their competitors hoped to see them fall. In fact, they did fall, but only by an average of 0.7 percent. In the past the argument has tended to be around the total cost of providing the network. This time round, it’s as much to do with how the costs are apportioned. Over the period in which this new regulatory price is in force Telstra expects a 60 percent decline in the number of services, as customers move to the NBN or move off fixed line services altogether. That raises two questions, both addressed in this week’s Crosstalk: - Shouldn’t the impact of the lost revenue by shared across all access seekers; and - Wouldn’t the losses associated with the decline already be covered in the compensation provided in Telstra’s definitive agreement with NBN In this week’s podcast we hear from: - Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC - Jane Van Beelen, executive director, regulatory affairs at Telstra - John DeRidder, telecommunications economist

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