Panel: Broadband users won't be boxed in

Concentrating on a "one-stop" broadband solution for businesses has hindered the uptake of the high-speed service in Australia, industry leaders say.

Speaking at the Telstra Broadband Roundtable in Sydney yesterday, Request CEO Phil Sykes said SMEs have been neglected by the total solution approach services providers have taken to delivering broadband to the market.

"The challenge for broadband is in the marketing and selling value propositions. It is different for different users," he said.

One of the key factors broadband suppliers need to recognise is that selling broadband has to be tailored to business needs, he said.

"There won't be broadband in a box for some time. Service providers have got to get out there, to establish relations with SMEs," Sykes said.

There to discuss the overall uptake of broadband services in Australia, as well as the role broadband will play in the SME space, speakers at the event included broadband suppliers Flowcom, Request, NEC's Nextep, Pacific Internet and Telstra Wholesale. All were adamant that SMEs would be big winners from the development of broadband services, but agreed further awareness about the benefits of high-speed networks is also needed to drive demand.

Telstra Wholesale representative Deena Shiff said broadband in Australia is in a critical phase of growth. While 70 per cent of copper lines in Australia are DSL capable, she said only one per cent of the population has taken up the service. "We need to promote consumer interest and awareness in broadband, and we need to get closer to what users want," she said.

The panel also discussed contention rates on broadband networks, and concerns about the lack of guaranteed network performance. Contention rates show the amount of subscribers allocated to an amount of bandwidth.

Request's Sykes said that in some instances, residential and business DSL services are already oversubscribed, resulting in a negative effect on the user.

"Networks have to be able to evolve so as to support the applications and services consumers want to use," he said.

While all agreed regulatory service guidelines could be beneficial in tackling oversubscription and subsequent throughput issues, oversubscription was first and foremost an issue for service providers.

Nextep boss Michael Johanneson said before establishing regulatory service guidelines and ratings, the industry would need to develop its own definitions on how such rates would be measured.

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Nadia Cameron

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