Can Melbourne become a tech capital?

The Age recently reports the Top 10 Tech Capital in the world – Melbourne and Sydney are no where near them and to be honest, I am not at all surprised. The report also kinda summarise why Sydney [or Melbourne] can yet to measure up with the Top digital cities. Here are my little two cents in reference to the report:

  • Huge internet bill – Personal experience: having to pay 60 bucks each month for internet is abhor and it’s like living back in time when internet is still dial-up predominant, which to a very humble international student who came from Hong Kong means living back in more than 10 years ago.
  • Overall SLOWWWWWWWW internet connection – it is a wonder how could 128kbps ADSL connection still exists and could be regarded as broadband service. Faster speed is still available to a limited extent however, it’s nothing compared to Japan’s widely available 100Mbps connection.
  • Expensive mobile subscription: Even my mobile allows GPRS, MMS, push-to-talk, etc. the huge bill again encourages me only to text and mostly make calls to people within my network.
  • Lack of free wifi facilities: other than Joe’s Garage in Brunswick Street, I still can’t find any other free wifi spot in Melbourne. Unless you count University which the usage is restricted to students and staff or State Library which you have to be a registered library user. And seriously, I just can’t see myself using Telstra hot-spot services available at Starbucks which could even bring an even bigger bill to my mailbox.
  • Interestingly, Melbourne 2030 actually addresses telecommunication under the heading of A more prosperous city. Have a look at what it says.

    All negativity asides, it is observable that the telecommunication charges is improving in Melbourne and Melbourne’s digital future should remain fairly bright. But it is undeniable that we still have a lot catch-up to do when compared to the digital cities mentioned in the report.

    12 Comments so far

    1. Neil (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 3:44 am

      The biggest problem is Telstra Wholesale. All ISPs go through Telstra’s infrastructure. They set the port prices and the speed. They artifically cap internet speed at 1.5M/256k, 256k/64k etc..

      The Australian government has not fully privatized Telstra.

      Additionally, Japan and Australia are apples and oranges. Australia has a population of 20 million, 2.6 /km² population density, 224th in the world. Japan has 127 million people, 337 /km² population density, or 30th in the country.

      We are an island country which adds to cost and speed of international links.

      Thus, without unlimited internet, slower speeds and higher costs, free wifi is never going to be as prevalent as Japan, Hong Kong or the U.S.

      Look at Whirlpool.net.au for much discussion on this and other net issues.


    2. Janice (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 3:51 am

      hahaaa i knew you would brought that up


    3. Janice (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 3:53 am

      hahaaa I knew you would brought all those up – but are we just going to let all those excuses drag us down? I hope not. But thanks for your info with regards to evil Telstra.


    4. Darren (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 4:32 am

      Indeed, density is a problem that plagues most countries deserving to be on the list but aren’t.

      Singapore should be excused from the list. It is basically an internet-enabled multi-story shopping mall passing off for a country :P


    5. colin (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 11:51 am

      This is not to discount Internode’s exercise to Wifi-enable Adelaide, for instance. Take a walk along Rundle Mall, and you’ll never not see a free wifi hotspot (well, free if you’re an Internode customer). I recall this architecture being ready and in production, back in 2003.

      So, Adelaide in comparison is small? Well, Rundle Mall and its surrounds might be comparable to the size of the CBD proper in Melbourne. Ok, its smaller (I think), but that being said, all this isn’t impossible.

      Why Telstra or Optus charges $13/hr for Internet usage at Starbucks/FedSquare is crazy.

      I have solved my problem for mobile internet requirements. I have a data plan. They’re getting cheaper as the years go by. A 1gb data plan used to be $69, its now $49, and the option for a 2gb data plan has erupted for $69 (this is on 3, probably the cheapest if you need data, in comparison to Optus and Telstra). For rss, email, and light web surfing, mobile data is right for me. Of course, quotas suck. But thats another story altogether


    6. colin (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

      Oh Janice, btw, nearer to you, there’s free WiFi rather than having to go Brunswick St… Melbourne Central’s food court has wifi. e55 on elizabeth st has wifi (and cheap beer). 6links (flinders lane) has wifi (a bar, pool table, and some great science magazines) but they only give you a code/30min, so you’re encouraged to buy a drink every 30min. There are probably a few more I’m forgetting (there’s a cafe on queen’s st and the corner of… darn, can’t remember) that has free wifi too. magnation (elizabeth st) has free wifi, and from what i gather free magazine reading (try their shakes, they’re quite good – well, maybe not in the current weather). this list goes on…


    7. Darren (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

      Wagamama QV :)


    8. Brett (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

      I posted a comment chock full of free wifi linky goodness early this AM, but it went into moderation, apparently never to be seen again. So I’ll try again just with one link. The best one was probably http://www.freewifi.com.au/listing_summary.php?region_id=27&listing_type=free though none of them seemed comprehensive (that one misses out on the Melbourne Central foodcourt which I’ve used).


    9. Ross Hill (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

      Magnation near Flinders St have coffee, magazines to browse and free wifi. The power point to seat ratio is pretty bad but if you have a battery go for it. The mags are good too!

      http://maps.google.com/maps?f=l&hl=en&q=magnation&near=melbourne&ie=UTF8&ll=-37.815904,144.9649&spn=0.005357,0.011759&z=17&om=1


    10. Shahbaz (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

      The overall infrastructure still sucks except a few places closer to CBD (+5-10 km). I feel some what silly telling ppl we have broadband while friend overseas in 3rd world countries have much better service, speed and cost (ADSL, cable, GPRS, cell phones etc.) when they compare it with Melb.

      The market outside Australia is de-regulated in those economies(i.e. Asia) doing so well and bringing the latest technologies at cheaper cost to ppl due to competition.


    11. IBK (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

      cheap internet access alone cannot make a city a ‘tech capital’


    12. Will (unregistered) on June 20th, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

      Another issue to look at is international undersea cable links out of Australia.

      Have a look at the following artile: http://australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,21926920-15306,00.html

      According to the article, “there are only two routes out”. One of which is the AJC undersea cable, which links Australia with Japan (via Guam). The other is the Southern Cross undersea Cable which links Australia with the US West Coast(via Hawaii).

      Note that Telstra are a major shareholder in the AJC cable, whilst Optus is a major shareholder in the Southern Cross cable.

      Having only 2 routes out means that there is price fixing and less competition as far as prices go. Also, it means any damage along those routes will affect internet usage here.

      There’s a map for you guys to look at:
      http://news.com.com/2300-1033_3-6035611-1.html?part=rss&tag=6035611&subj=news

      So to get prices down, new links need to be established to both compliment exhisting ones (as alternate routes) and to enable further competition to drive prices down for international bandwidth. This in turn should allow for lower internet fees/increased download limits for us end users.



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