Monday, January 6, 2014

Australia's Gigabit Genie out of the bottle - entrepreneurs smiling

A growing group of Aussie change makers and entrepreneurs are sick of Australia being known as a dirty big mine. They've sniffed the dusty air, rubbed a magic lantern and come up with another way. The Gigabit Genie has awakened!
Last month the nation's new broadband company NBNCo quietly switched on fibre based gigabit services to their wholesale service providers reports ZDnet . 2014 could indeed be the start of a magical year for entrepreneurs.

Original entrepreneurs

The wide brown land in the south has always been full of resourceful people. The original inhabitants survived and thrived in what is a land of extreme heat, cold, rain and drought. Leading them to be some of the great survivors of the planet. Today's aboriginal Australia is entering a sort of renaissance via art works, music, sport and business pursuits.
To the early european settlers in the late 18th century the adaptable and flexible ways of the aboriginals was apparent in their subtle use of fire to stimulate pastures and raise game on very marginal soils. Indeed, together with innovative fishing techniques this seems to have lead to the survival of the early colony of Sydney.

Fleet fingered innovators

The convicts and settlers of the day were by definition a fleet fingered and "entrepreneurial" bunch and many quickly adopted innovative ways of surviving and later thriving in the tough countryside. Over 220 years later Australia is one of the worlds wealthier nations after overcoming the odds of climate, isolation and a burdened cultural heritage.

Unlikely farming success

Paradoxically, agricultural produce was the the first major export of the nation and wool was the prized commodity. Australia is said to have rode on the sheep's back for many decades and still has a sizeable part of the world fine wool market. If you wear a good suit, chances are that it's from an Aussie merino sheep. Though wool is but one export, Australia grows every crop known to civilization, from native macadamia nuts to rice, cotton and wheat.

Aladdin's cave for Prospectors 

Though the nation's mineral resources were the sleeping giant, if only they could be transported. Distance was a the great challenge. Vast territory needed to be covered to get minerals to market. Yet slowly the mines, railways and the ports were built and what started out as a trickle is now a massive flow of iron ore, coal, bauxite, gold, diamonds, uranium, gas and almost every mineral know to man. While American 'black gold' seekers where striking oil, media shy Australian prospectors were busy uncovering some of the greatest mineral deposits on the planet. Now the largest mining companies in the world are Australian, or at least nominally as they are owned by many happy shareholders. The world's wealthiest woman too is an Australia heir of a flamboyant mining prospector *.

Time for the next boom

Yet as is so often the case with massively profitable industries they tend to distort their host economies and to some extent the bend the politics of the nation in their favour. Resulting in an artificially high exchange rate, a skills drain from other industries and a general wage pressure. All very well if you're involved in the mining industry either as a supplier, shareholder or employee. Pretty crappy if you're not. Most of Australia is not.
Many resourceful Aussies are starting to ask "surely there's another way to make a buck down under". Turns out there is.

Digital boom 

Increasingly there's evidence of a new boom tied to digital technologies thanks in no small part to an audacious plan to build a nationwide fibre optic network capable of gigabit speeds in the short term and terabit speeds in the foreseeable future. The National Broadband Network or NBN was partly an economic answer to the global economic crisis but has quickly gathered huge support as an alternative economic and entrepreneurial driver of the future. All this despite a recent change of government that threatens the extent of the project. In many ways the threat of divestment has hardened the resolve of many that will fight for the project and more importantly for the business opportunities in a digital economy quickly evolving around the globe.
Interestingly the current footprint of the NBN fibre optic networks is predominantly in outer metro and regional Australia where the old copper networks were in poor condition. This is having the result of making these locations highly attractive to entrepreneurs looking to leverage the use of such amazing bandwidth for services.

New entrepreneurs

Australia is already a disproportionate contributor to the successful digital economy with winners like Invoice2go & Play2Lead and a proud history in the assisted development of the internet protocol TCP/IP, WiFi, Google Maps in addition to big successes in early computing history.
Now the entrepreneurial zeal of previous generations coupled with emerging gigabit networks it seems the land down under may just overcome the odds and the tyranny of distance once again. These new entrepreneurs having rubbed the proverbial magic lantern of the NBN, are conjuring up a new digital boom time. Bigger, better and brighter than Aladdin's gold mine, quiet literally.

NB: The author  of this article is actively involved in several enterprises researching the use of gigabit networks. Planning on distributing findings, products and services as they come online. Interested in investing, researching or building a product or service? Make contact!

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