IT REALLY is going to happen. We are going to turn off the television. On 3 December, Sydney’s analogue TV transmitters will be switched off. A week later, the ones serving Melbourne and remote central and eastern Australia will be closed and analogue TV in Australia will be gone. For more than half the population, including people in Brisbane and Perth, it already is.
Over-the-air television, of course, won’t be done with, because analogue switch-off is also digital switchover. It will have taken around thirteen years from the start of digital transmission in January 2001 to the final shutdown of analogue, and fifteen years from the first round of legislation that set the rules for the transition.
Today, Australia is in the midst of another great transition in communications technology, the shift to a National Broadband Network. This time, though, the precise destination is not as clear. Until the federal election in September, the NBN was going to be an all-fibre network to 93 per cent of residential and business premises by 2021, allowing the progressive shutdown of Telstra’s copper access network. Now, under the Coalition, it is a mix of technologies offering download speeds of 25–100 mbps to all premises by the end of 2016 and, three years later, at least 50 mbps for 90 per cent of fixed-line users. For most premises, copper wires will still be the final link to the network.
Like the digital TV switchover, the NBN is a long–term plan to transform the delivery of essential communications services. So what lessons might be learned from the transformation of television?
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