In this post I wanted to talk about the UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband). At OnNetworks we have been involved in the internet in New Zealand since day one. We are excited about what the UFB can offer as it marks a major milestone in its development as a social and business tool that will have a lasting effect on innovation in New Zealand.
There is a lot of discussion in the media about design, money and time. Collectively the tech community need to get past this noise and focus on delivery to the end user. If you have ever worked in a project team in a large organisation you will know the detrimental effect of noise created by politics and opinion. The noise always slows down delivery in project land. Despite the initial hype, we have seen the end user (You and Me) forgotten of late and we are the ones that will ultimately decide whether UFB is a success.
Today I will put on my product management hat. This means we are going to focus on the important things the customer (You and Me), the features and the benefits. Why take such a high level view? For most of you the UFB is outside your door someone just needs to invite it in and we want to help you navigate the ins and outs of letting the UFB in. Also what to look for based on some of the key questions I get asked by our clients regarding internet connections.
In 1991, Geoffrey A. Moore published one of my favourite books Crossing the Chasm (Marketing and Selling Hi-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers). In it Moore expands on the Everett Rogers theory of the diffusion of innovations model, in which every product or service has a lifecycle and the product’s stage (or age) is determined by a percentage of the market share. Moore argues that between the first two stages Innovators and Early Adopters there is a chasm, where the product moves from being a cool gadget to commercial solution to a problem.
Diffusion of Innovations, Prof. Everett Rogers
Our first question is, has the UFB crossed the chasm? Based on the adoption figures published in the media we are on the precipice. Now it’s time for small business to take the lead as early adopters. We have already begun to embrace the adoption of web or cloud based services, however success hinges on the community having access to reliable, fast and affordable internet access.
Do you use cloud services in your business today? This could be online storage applications such as Dropbox, accounting services like Xero and others like Office365 or Google Docs. All of these services are scalable and can provide operational cost efficiencies, however to be used to their fullest require a good connection and sizeable international data allowance to get consistent costs. Also a number of these services are physically hosted (or located) outside of New Zealand. Making the business data you store in them subject to the laws of the country in which it is located. From a connectivity point of view it means that you will consume your international data allowance to use them, which if not monitored can lead to excess charges on your monthly account.
Is speed the key metric to look for? The reality is there are a number of factors such as your ISP’s infrastructure, geographic location, the time of day, congestion, your LAN configuration and devices, as well as the geographic location of content you are trying to access that will affect your experience on the web. You don’t need to have a computer degree to navigate this mine field but it can be confusing. The quality of the media is the first thing you must look for. For example, is the access provided over a copper cable? If so is it ADSL or VDSL2? VDSL is one of the precursor products in the UFB family and allows for faster speeds across an existing copper connection. Preferably you should aim for optical fibre all the way to your office, this will mean that you have the best quality media for your connection which has been accounted for in the UFB installation process. If fibre is unavailable then VDSL is still a cost effective stepping stone to get more bang for your buck.
Once you have the right media the connection or circuit speed is the next consideration. Most ISP’s will provide different plans based on the speed of the circuit that will run across the copper or fibre media. This will usually be presented as the speed in Megabits Per Second (Mbps) you can download or upload information from your ISP across your connection. The speed should be referenced as ‘up to XX Mbps’ this is where your location and other factors about the media come into play. The technology used to push data around the internet is dependant the network provider’s equipment and the premises location to it. The farther you are from a cabinet or exchange can affect the actual speed of the connection you have purchased.
It is also important to remember that the connection speed refers to your connection to your ISP. For example if you buy a plan that has up to 50Mbps download this doesn’t mean that the packets of information will maintain that speed all the way to your office. Let’s say if you use a website or cloud service based in the US, your information will need to travel a long distance across a sub sea cable! You can use services such as www.speedtest.net to see what speed you are actually getting from your connection to different locations around the globe.
How can I tell if UFB fibre is available in my building? You can check for the availability of UFB services in your area or office building by using the Chorus Capabilities Map on their website or call us! In many cases Chorus will have the fibre outside of your door. For the UFB to be provided to an apartment or office building there needs to be what they call an Multi Dwelling Unit (MDU) installed in the building. The MDU is an electrical interface that allows Chorus to channel the UFB into and throughout the building. Ask your landlord if they have been engaged about this by an ISP or Chorus. The installation process involves a written consent, scoping, design and build that can take a few months. You or your landlord can learn more on the Chorus website on this page http://www.chorus.co.nz/apartments right now most MDU installations will be covered under the network providers agreements with Crown Fibre Holdings.
What type of data plan do I need? To make sure you don’t blow out on your monthly budget the key is to look at the way you are using the internet for day to day operations. For heavy users and pros look for an ISP that measures your bandwidth consumption. Bandwidth is a measurement of the throughput capacity. For everyone be wary of the word unlimited when it comes to data, read the small print; often there are limitations on bandwidth that can be applied when your reach certain limits. This is not necessarily a bad practice however your connection may have limitations you weren’t expecting. Again the media is key to performance, if you have unlimited data, but are connected to your ISP by a wet piece of string unlimited simply won’t matter in the long run. For small offices or those that don’t rely on the internet for day to day operations, don’t buy too much! It’s OK to have some head room however the internet is a consumption based tool. Use it or lose it. If you aren’t using it you can’t put left overs in the freezer and save them for later.
To summarise, what to look for when choosing the right connection;
- See if the UFB is available in your area using the Chorus Map
- Get the right access media, ask for UFB fibre or VDSL2 if Fibre is not available.
- Talk to your landlord or property manager to see if it is on their radar (If not we can help!)
- Connection speed does matter, but measure the improvement to find the benfit.
- From your office go to www.speedtest.net.nz and do a couple of simple tests. First check your speed to CityLink in Wellington, then Telstra in Sydney, then try a site on the West Coast of the US and see how the results vary!
- Look at your bill and data usage you may be paying for too much or too little. Getting it right is a quick way to find a cost efficiency.
UFB is allowing residential and businesses cost effective access to optical fibre and its capabilities. What was once a major expense accessible only to big business is now an affordable option for everyone. The UFB is a tool to help us innovate and thrive as a business community and now is the time to transition.
References & Resources
Chorus Capability Map – www.chorus.co.nz/maps
Crown Fibre Holdings – http://www.crownfibre.govt.nz/ufb-initiative/
OOKLA Speedtest – www.speedtest.net
Crossing the Chasm – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Chasm
Geoffrey A. Moore – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Moore
Everett Rodgers – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_Rogers
About OnNetworks – http://www.on.net.nz/onnetworks-leadership-team/