Feb 152017
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

If you missed the show, you can listen through the ABC Nightlife website. Sadly we didn’t get to half the topics but our callers, as well as the NBN PR guy, were fabulous.

Paul Wallbank joins Phillip Clark on ABC Nightlife across Australia from 10pm Australian Eastern time on Thursday, February 16 to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

Last week the NBN announced a third of the country was now covered by their services and the company’s CEO, Bill Morrow, said Australians really don’t want super fast internet. A few weeks before, Telstra announced a new service that will deliver gigabit broadband over their mobile network. We can expect their competitors to offer similar products soon.
At the same time we’re seeing a blast from the past as Nokia are rumoured to be soon releasing an updated version of their classic 3310 phone – are we going to see the ‘tradie phone’ making a comeback?
While the old phone is nice, many people need fast broadband so how is the NBN going and, if you can’t get it, what can you do? Some of the questions
  • So how is the NBN going?
  • Wasn’t the government’s revised plan going to mean the whole thing is going to be cheaper and faster than the original project?
  • Who can get it?
  • Is it as good as promised?
  • So what alternatives to the NBN are there?
  • Doing the sums on those mobile plans, using them can be a pretty expensive business?
  • It seems we’re going backwards. How does Australian broadband compare globally?
  • How is this affecting regional communities and businesses?

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

Apr 122016
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Is the smart home worth the trouble? We live in an age of connected smoke alarms, kettles and even egg trays. For this month’s ABC Nightlife we’ll ask if these devices add to our lives or just make things more complex.

Earlier this month Google announced it would down their Evolv home automation platform leaving hundreds of users stuck with useless devices. So what happens to smart gadgets when they are disconnected from the Internet? We’ll also look at the new folding phone and just what a dire state the Australian telecoms industry is in.

Some of the questions we’ll cover include;

  • What was Google’s Evolv system?
  • Disabling the devices is a bit dramatic, why have they done that?
  • Do customers have any recourse?
  • Is this a risk with all connected devices?
  • What about connected cars, could they be turned off?
  • My computer needs updating, what about these devices?
  • What happens when the internet is disconnected, will my internet fridge work?
  • Samsung showed off a new folding phone last week. What exactly is it?
  • When will we see it on the market?
  • The Annual CommsDay conference was held last week in Sydney. Is there any good news for Aussie consumers?
  • Is the National Broadband Network looking any better?
  • How is the global telecommunications industry looking, can we expect anything exciting?

Join us

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Australian Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

Oct 162015
fiber optics are the key part of fast communications

Chattanooga in the US mid West introduced city broadband in 2008 in the face of legal challenges from the existing cable operators.

The operators lost in the courts and were forced to compete with the local, city owned power company’s network.

Now Wired reports Chattanooga is upping the ante by increasing the available throughput of their network to 10Gb.

While that’s good news for those businesses and households in Chattanooga that need those speeds, there’s a much more important effect that Wired points out.

Municipal broadband providers are raising expectations nationwide for what good Internet service means, forcing commercial providers to improve their infrastructure. And by increasing the amount of bandwidth available, they could be setting the stage for the creation of new, more bandwidth-hungry applications. This is how better service goes from a “nice-to-have” to a “you’d-better-have” for the country’s recalcitrant cable companies.

A few municipal projects could be the trigger to getting better services across the country. This is a model that could work in many other fields as well.

Aug 312015

How much does broadband really matter in developing a competitive and innovative modern economy? A corporate lunch with US software company NetApp last week illustrated that there’s more to creating a successful digital society than just rolling out fibre connections.

Rich Scurfield, NetApp’s Senior Vice President responsible for the Asia-Pacific was outlining the firm’s plans for the Australian market and how it fits into the broader jigsaw puzzle of economies across the region.

Like many companies in the China market NetApp is finding it hard with Scurfield describing the market as “chaotic”. This isn’t unusual for western technology companies and Apple is one of the few to have had substantial success.

Across the rest of East Asia, Scurfield sees them ranging as being mature, stable and settled in the cases of Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand through to India where the opportunities and the challenges of connecting a billion people are immense.

Digital outliers

The interesting outlier is South Korea, one of the most connected nations in the world, where the promise of ubiquitous broadband isn’t delivering the expected economic benefits to the entire community.

In theory, South Korea should be seeing a boom in connected small businesses. As Scurfield says, “from a technology providers’ view this connectivity means you could do more things very differently because of the infrastructure that’s available.”

Global Innovation Rankings

Korea’s underperformance is illustrated by last year’s Global Innovation Index that saw South Korea coming in at 16th, just ahead of both Australia and New Zealand whose broadband rollouts are nowhere near as advanced as the ROK’s.

Making a close comparison of Australia and the Republic of Korea’s strengths in the WIPO innovation index, it’s clear the technology and engineering aspects are just part of a far more complex set of factors such as confidence in institutions, the ease of doing business and even freedom of the press.

Putting those factors together makes a country far more likely to encourage its population to start new innovative businesses that can compete globally. When you have a small group of chaebol dominating the private sector then it’s much harder for new entrants to enter the market – interestingly a private sector dominated by big conglomerates is a problem Australia shares.

Small business laggards

NetApp’s Scurfield flagged exactly this problem, “Korea is an interesting market in there’s about six companies that matter and from a competitive view those companies are extremely advanced, they have great technology and great people.”

“However what’s not happening across the rest of the country is this adoption isn’t bleeding into the broader community,” said Scurfield “Because of that I don’t see broadband connectivity as having a wide impact.”

That Korean small and medium businesses aren’t using broadband technologies to develop innovative new products and service in one of the most connected economies on earth raises a question about just how effective investment in infrastructure is when it’s faced with cultural barriers.

Certainly we should be keeping in mind that economic development, global competitiveness and the creation of industry hubs is as much a matter of people, national institutions and culture as it is of technology.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of our people and institutions when evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a nation in today’s connected world.

Oct 032014

Google Fiber’s stated aim is to improve access to high broadband internet connections for the communities it’s being rolled out in.

The Wall Street Journal reports that this isn’t going so well with take ups of the fiber service in the poor parts of Kansas City being a quarter of those in middle class areas.

It’s not surprising an expensive service like fiber internet isn’t taken up by folk who don’t have money, but the discrepancy between the haves and the have nots should be a concern as access to today’s communication tools is key to economic progress.

During the rollouts of the railways, telegraph and motor car it was giving working people access to the new technologies that drove growth. If internet access becomes only available to the few then today’s technological developments deliver on their promise.

Apr 032014

Australia’s government research agency, the CSIRO, released a somewhat alarming media alert this morning warning that our cities are approaching Peak Data.

Peak Data, which borrows from the ‘Peak Oil’ term coined in the 1970s to describe the point where oil production reaches a maximum, is where we run out available bandwidth on our wireless networks.

The release is around the agency’s new report, A World Without Wires, where the agency lays out its view of the future of cellular and radio communications.

“In the future, how spectrum is allocated may change and we can expect innovation to find new ways to make it more efficient but the underlying position is that spectrum is an increasingly rare resource,” says  the CSIRO’s Director of Digital Productivity and Services Flagship Dr Ian Oppermann.

“With more and more essential services, including medical, education and government services, being delivered digitally and on mobile devices, finding a solution to “peak data” will become ever more important into the future.”

The wireless data paradox

It’s a paradox that just as we’re entering a world of unlimited data, we have limitations of what we can broadcast wirelessly as radio spectrum becomes scarce and contested.

With fixed line communications, particularly fibre optics, available spectrum can be relatively simply increased by laying down more cables – wireless only has one environment to broadcast in –  so finding ways of pushing more data through the airways is what much of the CSIRO’s paper addresses.

For telecommunications companies, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity; the challenge being squeezing more data into limited spectrum while the opportunity lies in charging more for guaranteed connectivity.

The latter raises questions about network neutrality and the question of whether different types of traffic across wireless networks can be charged differently or given differing levels of priority.

Distributing the load

This also gives credence to the distributed processing strategies like Cisco’s Fog Computing idea that takes the load off public networks and can potentially hand traffic over to fixed networks or point to point microwave services.

While M2M data is tiny compared to voice and domestic user needs, it does mean business critical services will have to compete with other users, both in the private Wi-Fi frequencies or the public mobile networks spectrum.

Overall though, the situation isn’t quite as dire as it seems; technological advances are going to figure out new ways of stuffing data into the available spectrum and aggressively priced data plans are going to discourage customers from using data intensive applications.

A key lesson from this though is those designing, M2M, Internet of Things or smart city applications can’t assume that bandwidth will always be available to communicate to their devices.

For the Internet of Things, robust design will require considering security, latency and quality of service.

Oct 172013
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

The National Broadband Network has always been a hot political issue in Australian politics and with the election of the new Federal government the often delayed project is being reviewed.

What does this mean for communities and businesses struggling with inadequate internet connections? Join Tony Delroy and Paul Wallbank from 10pm, October 17 on ABC Local Radio across Australia.

If you missed the program, you can listen to it as a podcast through the ABC Tony Delroy’s Nightlife page.

Some of the questions Tony and Paul be covering include;

  • Why did we need the NBN in the first place?
  • What’s happened to the NBN since the new government was elected?
  • Why are we are we having political arguments about an infrastructure upgrade?
  • What are the differences between fibre to the node versus fibre to premises?
  • Why is the NBN running so late?
  • How will the coalition’s change the slow rollout?
  • Australia’s come in around 40th on an international survey on Internet use. Is this because of the NBN?

We’ll also be looking at some other topics such a Google’s new advertising plan and how to drop out of it.

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on the night on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia. If you’re outside the broadcasting area, you can stream the program through the ABC website.