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2010 TUANZ Innovation Awards (02 Sep 2010)

Speech made by Broadcasting Minister (2008-2011) Jonathan Coleman.

Good evening everyone. It is my pleasure to be invited to speak at the 2010 TUANZ Innovation Awards on behalf of my colleague, Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce.  

I would like to begin by thanking TUANZ (the Technology Users Association of New Zealand) for organising tonight's dinner and awards ceremony.   I congratulate you on putting together such a successful and well-attended event.  I would also like to thank all of the sponsors who have made this evening possible through their generous contributions.

To all the finalists and awards winners of the 14 different categories, and, of course, the overall winner yet to be announced, I would like to say congratulations and thank you for your contribution to New Zealand's growth through your innovative use of telecommunications.   I extend my sympathies to the judging panel, who must have had a difficult time in selecting winners from such a high calibre of finalists.

I always feel inspired by events such as this one which encourage innovation and recognise excellence.  These awards are a great way of highlighting and celebrating those companies, organisations and individuals who think outside the square and utilise telecommunications technology to its full advantage.

As you are all well aware, telecommunications technology is adapting and evolving everyday and new opportunities to utilise this technology are continually presenting themselves.  I would like to think that the current Government's initiatives underway in this area will inspire and facilitate further innovative activities long into the future.

Ultra-fast Broadband

You will no doubt all be aware that the Government is investing $1.5 billion in accelerating the rollout of ultra-fast broadband services to 75 percent of New Zealand within the next ten years.  New Zealanders are not content with the slow internet speeds of recent years past.  What we are aiming to achieve with the ultra-fast broadband initiative is speeds in urban areas of at least 100 Megabits per second down and 50 Megabits per second up.  That's probably 50 to 100 times faster that your current home internet speed.

My Colleague Minister Joyce is very pleased with the progress of this initiative. A number of bids have been received to partner with Crown Fibre Holdings to lay the necessary fibre and these are currently being evaluated.  We are hoping to begin laying fibre by the end of the year.

As well as the Ultra-Fast Broadband initiative targeting urban areas, the Government is also progressing the Rural Broadband Initiative to address the specific broadband infrastructure needs of rural New Zealand.  Together, these two broadband initiatives will help the Government to achieve its aim of ensuring all New Zealanders are able to take part in the benefits of a 21st century telecommunications network.

Basically, what we are going to be doing with these broadband initiatives is putting the infrastructure in place so that end-users, such as yourselves, can put it to innovative uses.   I notice that tonight there are awards for innovation in the areas of health and education - these are two areas where broadband services will significantly open new doors and where innovation is vital. 

In the health and disability sector, better broadband services should lead to more efficient health care services.  Fibre-based broadband could potentially improve health care delivery in several ways, including the provision of video-based services to rural users, improved capability for information exchange, and facilitating wider access to health care services.   

The broadband initiatives will also provide many new opportunities in the education sector.  It will help ensure that 97 percent of schools will be connected to broadband.   

These initiatives will also mean that our ISPs are going to have to rethink their business models.  We have seen some of the new issues that emerge with existing bandwidth:  at 10 Megabits per second a 20 Gigabyte data cap is consumed in about five hours.  At 1 Gigabit per second, this will reduce to less than half a minute.  In the not very distant future the data cap is doomed in New Zealand and just imagine the possibilities that will create for end users!

Telecommunications and Broadcasting Convergence

It is certainly an exciting time to be working on telecommunications, with significant developments underway, such as the convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting.  As we become more comfortable with technology our use is becoming more advanced and consumers are now seeking informative broadcasting that they can interact with and be connected to. 

No longer is there one single way in which content can be delivered to consumers, nor one single provider of content. 

Convergence provides opportunities for boosting competition through reducing barriers to entry, and ultimately the end user experience will be enhanced.  Obviously faster broadband will play a significant part in accelerating this convergence and the opportunities are endless.

Digital Switchover

Another initiative that Minister Joyce and myself are presently involved with is the move from analogue to digital TV, known as the Digital Switchover.  I am particularly excited about this initiative as it provides benefits for viewers, as well as freeing up spectrum for other users.

The switchover to digital television will mean better quality picture and sound for all viewers as well as increased choice in programmes and services.    Users will be able to enjoy features such as an electronic programme guide and high definition viewing, as well as potentially watching 3D programmes in the future.

As digital television requires substantially less spectrum than analogue television it will therefore free up spectrum - known as the digital dividend.  This spectrum is ideally suited for providing fourth generation, or 4G, mobile broadband services. 

That means fast internet to your handset.  Reallocating the freed-up digital dividend to new 4G mobile phone services will allow New Zealanders to have access to significantly faster and better mobile broadband services. 

The digital dividend spectrum may also be useful for delivering wireless broadband in rural areas, which will further enhance the Government's Rural Broadband Initiative.

Obviously it will take some time to transition viewers to the digital technology.   Our figures indicate that more than 60 per cent, and possibly up to 70 per cent of households, have at least one digital receiver.  This suggests that many New Zealanders have already switched over.  Additionally, there have been increasing calls for a decision on the digital switchover date from broadcasters, telecommunications businesses and retailers.  There has also been increasing consumer and media interest. 

The exact date for the digital switchover is yet to be announced - I would recommend watching this space over the next few weeks!

Thank you for your attention.  I would like to close by repeating my congratulations to all of tonight's finalists and award winners and thank you again to TUANZ and sponsors for putting together tonight's event.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the evening.

Updated on 23rd July 2015