Hong takes reins of Wellington broadband strategy

Former Wellington City Council IT manager to lead network build

Former Wellington City Council IT manager Alma Hong has returned to the council, on contract, to lead the city’s broadband vision.

Ratified by the council earlier this year (Computerworld, March 12), the broadband plan calls for a city-wide network that will eventually reach out to the city’s outskirts, offering symmetrical bandwidth for the upload and download of traffic. It will offer open access at reasonable cost and will also support peering with other networks.

The network, ambitiously scheduled for completion by 2012, will be built through public-private collaboration. Incentives for a pure private-sector development are weak, because of the high cost of basic infrastructure and the competitive force of the incumbent, says Hong. This necessitates council involvement.

“One of the key contributions that the council could bring to a relationship with strategic partners — and which a number of territorial authorities in New Zealand are already doing — is to use its roles as owner of city infrastructure and as regulator [and] policy-maker to encourage broadband rollout,” says Hong.

At the end of April, the council issued a Request for Concept (RfC), which was designed to elicit both information and views from the private sector on their financial and technical credentials; existing planned investment; appropriate business models and financing options; and technical implementation options. Views on the council’s role, as well as that of other stakeholders, in achieving the council’s broadband objectives were also sought.

There were 24 responses, from a mix of network operators, potential investors or anchor tenants, wireless providers, technology partners, network constructors and consultants.

“A significant amount of valuable information was received through the RfC,” says Hong “and this enabled us to [formulate] a staged network architecture and a range of viable business models which are currently under intensive analysis.

“This work will lead to a comprehensive business case for political sign-off,” says Hong. This will probably happen in the next three months — although, she points out, there is a local body election before then.

An existing project that is a strong fit with the wider objectives of the Wellington Broadband Vision is the Wellington Loop scheme for schools. Launched on March 8, the Loop is a 1GB network. Initially, it links six schools: Wellington Girls’ College; Wellington College; Wellington High School; St Mary’s College and Wellington East Girls’ College, and the Correspondence School of New Zealand. But the aim is to eventually take in all the schools in the Wellington region.

“We are delighted that the Wellington Loop project has just received $413,663 of funding, through the Digital Strategy Community Partnerships Fund,” says Hong.

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Tags broadbandwellingtonNetworking & Telecomms IDhong

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