Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
It looks as if satellite-based Internet access is in the news again with two
overseas operators preparing to move into New Zealand after smelling
the cash that will accompany a government pledge to put broadband
into every school.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Given the remoteness of many small NZ Schools, and the virtually non-existent
rural coverage offered by Telecom's DSL service, wireless or satellite looks to be
the only viable technology for filling in the many gaps.
Two-way satellite broadband is an emerging technology that is already available
in the USA from several suppliers such as
A fairly good FAQ on the features and promises of the Hughes-operated service
is available here.
Comparing the price of the two-way satellite services being offered in the USA
indicate that they're not too much more expensive than DSL (once you've bought
your dish and other hardware).
I didn't see any mention of a data cap either!
Let's not forget of course that we already have a satellite-based Internet
service in New Zealand -- namely IHUG's Ultra.
Unfortunately for IHUG, the government wants a high speed uplink as well as
a high speed downlink, so as to allow video-conferencing and the like. The
current incarnation of Ultra as applied to a rural situation uses a regular
dial-up connection to provide the uplink -- which limits it to 33.6Kbps.
There's also the, not insignificant effect, of that 4 cents/minute Telecom charge
associated with the outgoing call. Assuming a school were online for 6 hours
per day, that's as much as $72 per week or nearly $3,000 per year -- on top
of the other costs.
Read Tim Wood's correction to this
This makes a two-way, "no phone line required" alternative look far more attractive,
even if the service itself costs several hundred dollars per month.
However, what I find most incredible about this whole situation is that,
once again, it seems the promise of the Souther Cross cable has been
hijacked by those seeking to keep bandwidth prices high.
Although I don't know for sure, it's quite likely that the two-way satellite
services being touted now will bypass the SC cable completely -- in the same
way that the Ultra satellite service is fed directly from the USA.
This could be even more ridiculous when you realise that the US-based
two-way satellite services appear to be frequently sold on an uncapped "all you can eat"
Would you pay $150 per month for an uncapped broadband satellite connection
that offers 400Kbps download and 150Kbps upload?
Of course we're unlikely to see that sort of deal offered here in NZ -- after
all, why should any competitor to Telecom's DSL service undercut their pricing
by more than just a modest margin?
"What the market will bear" is frequently a far more lucrative pricing method
than "cost plus margin" when you're selling in a marketplace with only limited
Keep your eyes peeled for new services and new deals -- but don't hold your
breath over the price.
It's worth noting too that Microsoft is in bed with Gilat in the USA -- so
Gilat offering here
will be subsidised by MS on condition that
the schools elbow the open-source option for their software.
Maori TV Flush, TVNZ Poverty-Stricken?
As we all know, a very large dollop of your tax dollars are being used
to fund a Maori TV service which, depending on your perspective, is either
a valuable contribution to the preservation of Maori culture or a
vote-buying waste of money.
Whatever the case, it seems that TV1 is perhaps getting the short straw these
When I tried to find some info on the recently presented Qantas Media Awards (no,
there's no website that I can find for the awards -- go figure) I got
this result screen (screendump).
Check out the large bold text at the bottom of the page which says (or said)
"Unregistered release / Uncertified binary"
A little more investigation reveals that the message comes from a search engine
written by Vestris Inc. It seems you can run the code for an "evaluation period"
of 15 days -- after which you are required to "purchase a commercial
License Agreement from Vestris or destroy all copies
of the product in your possession." (Read the
Ooops - call Marion Hobbs and get some more cash guys!
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