THE NBN is a long way from being finished but one Australian city is already looking to offer data speeds that blow it out of the water.
Adelaide has set its sights on being a 10GB “smart city” and is looking at the benefits of ramping up its internet offering.
To put this into context, the NBN currently offers a maximum speed of 100 megabits per second. In gigabits, that’s just 0.1GBps. Even Labor’s NBN plan for fibre to the home, can only offer speeds up to 1GB per second.
Adelaide Mayor Martin Haese told the National Infrastructure Summit on Wednesday that the city was investigating the benefits of being a 10GB city and looking at case studies from around the world.
Adelaide is facing huge job losses due to the decline of manufacturing and the closure of businesses such as the Holden factory in 2017.
It’s now investigating whether offering a relaxed, carbon neutral city with great transport links and super fast internet could be its future ticket to growth.
Professor Rod Tucker of the University of Melbourne said it was possible to deliver a 10GB network and some cities in the US were already moving towards this.
“A number of cities in the US are now getting 1 gigabit per second and it’s possible with a small tweak of the technology to deliver 10 gigabits,” Prof Tucker told news.com.au.
He said the key was providing fibre to the premises and then it was relatively straightforward to upgrade this.
“You just need to change the modem in the home, and equipment in the telephone exchange,” he said.
These speeds would allow businesses to run several high-speed applications at once, or to download or upload large amounts of data.
“It means you can do several things simultaneously … you can watch different Netflix shows in different rooms and it will allow new applications we haven’t even heard of yet.”
To put it into context, he said most people in cities such as Sydney or Melbourne still used ADSL where the typical speed was 20 megbits per second.
The 10GB system would be 1000 times faster.
If people think back to the old days of dial-up modem, which provided 10-50 kilobits per second, this was 1000 times slower than what we have today.
Prof Tucker said he thought turning Adelaide into a 10GB city sounded like a “very exciting initiative”.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” Mr Haese said. “We have to innovate. We have to look to technology, we have to look to knowledge.
“This could be the most transformational piece of infrastructure that our city has ever seen.”
Adelaide has already seen growth in knowledge-based industries including health, education and professional services, and it wants to expand this further.
Mr Haese said the city was currently engaged in a debate about opportunities for data and internet speeds faster than the NBN and what that would mean for attracting businesses, residents and knowledge economies. A report is due in September.
He pointed out that the city already had six universities and being a compact and concentrated city would give it a competitive advantage.
“That’s what will enable us to achieve carbon neutrality, that’s what will enable us to preserve livability,” he said.
Adelaide has been rated the fifth most liveable city in the world by The Economistand Mr Haese said preserving this could be crucial in attracting young tech workers to the city.
“Livability is incredibly important in terms of its relationship with the knowledge economy and attracting knowledge workers,” he said. “We see our size as a strength.”
South Australia has been trialling driverless cars and the city is also looking at electric vehicle charging stations in the city.
The city is also about to complete a 2040 Adelaide plan and has already released a 2016-20 strategic plan that paints Adelaide as a “smart, liveable, green, creative city”.
Mr Haese said each of these characteristics talked to infrastructure, whether that be light rail or “soft” infrastructure such as internet speed.
“We have certainly prioritised soft infrastructure as a way of enabling growth,” Mr Haese said. “Our goal is to be a smart city.”
In a city of 1.3 million people, which represents the “lion’s share” of the state’s 1.8 million population, an essential part of its transformation will be continuing collaboration with the South Australian Government.
“We have reached fairly strong alignment with our state government in term of transport infrastructure,” Mr Haese said.
“We have a shared goal for the city to become a carbon neutral city by 2025. The state has a goal to be a carbon neutral state by 2050.
“So we’re crafting policies together and co-funding incentives for community together.”