Driving us digital

A recent government report spoke of driving Australians into the age of digital TV. Apparently, this kind of thing is what they have in mind.

Seriously, I wouldn’t object to auctioning off spectrum, even at some cost in terms of signal clarity, if new TV channels were allowed to bid. But the absolute rule of Australian media policy is to nothing contrary to the interests of the incumbent oligopoly.

12 thoughts on “Driving us digital

  1. Just turn off the analogue spectrum, allow digital to be broadcast at full strength.

    I saw a STB for $49 last week. Gov’t should give one to every household (the Encel solution).

  2. I understand that the government alone would save a fortune if they simply gave away a digital TV adapter to everyone who needs it as Alex Encel has suggested (see Age story of 11 Aug 06, submission number 40 to Parliment at http://www.aph.gov.au%2Fhouse%2Fcommittee%2Fcita%2Fdigitaltv%2Fsubs> ).

    Presumably, the suggestion has been shelved for ideological reasons. If such a massive economy of scale could be achieved by the government providing this one service, Australians might question whether the same could not be done in other areas.

  3. If the government allowed it, there could be enough TV channels to satisfy every conceivable taste. As usual with these things, the Americans lead the way. For instance, there is a 24 hour cricket channel that broadcasts in the greater New York area. This, in a country that doesn’t even play cricket.

  4. Although I can see the point of auctioning spectrum space: it’s the simplest way to decide who uses a scarce resource; and the fact that if someone is going to make a lot of money from it, then the government may as well get a slice.

    The problem I have with auctioning spectrum space is that it’s effectively a tax on infra-structure. It’s akin to making a tollway buy the land it’s on at market rate, which a government freeway would not be required to do. It’s arguable whether either money-go-round is more efficient – the taxpayer-funded freeway, or the user-pays tollway. But then governments don’t do these things in the name of efficiency – they do it to get debt off the books.

    3G technology out-performs GSM in all respects – especially bandwidth. However at 1c/kByte it’s completely impractical to use that bandwidth. It’s mainly 1c/kByte because the operator paid so much for spectrum rights. Hence GSM lives on despite being inferior, holding back the business innovation that might come with better technology.

    A tax on infra-structure can easily lead to infra-structure that doesn’t get used. Ask the Cross City Tunnel consortium how well that works. Just to show that my tollway analogy isn’t far off the mark, the CCTC were required to pay a $105M fee to the NSW government just for permission to build the tunnel. The interest on that was probably equivalent to about 8,000 extra trips per day.

  5. Why are we so obsessed with consuming? Do you remember that cartoon showing a dolly-bird with a bubble coming out of her mouth that said “25 years of shopping and I still don’t have anything to wear”? In my Hanoi residence I have satellite TV – 50 channels from the UK, US, China, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, France, Germany, Russia + global things like MTV, Star (Sport, Movies, World), Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC, ESPN. There are 4 movie channels, 4 or 5 sport channels, umpteen news channels, Cartoon Network, Chinese historical sagas and Brazilian soap operas. And still nothing to watch!

  6. Craig,

    I do most of my blog hopping on my mobile phone which switches between 3G and 2G depending on the coverage. My monthly data usage on the phone is typically over 100Mbytes. The data cost seems to come in at around $1 per Mbyte (ballpark) rather that the $10 per Mbyte that your figures suggest. Still not cheap but much less extreme than you imply.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  7. You can actually get 1GB/month for $100 from Telstra, which is 1/10th of what you’re paying, Terje.

    Monopoly, anyone?

  8. Terje,
    Fair enough, I consider myself corrected – $100/month isn’t that big a barrier to a business – assuming 100MB is enough.

    Looking at the optus rates for mobile, data is charged at about 75c/MB, but plan-excess is rated at 0.3c/kB. An all you can eat (as in actually, really, capped with an upper limit as opposed to the industry standard “cap”) plan will get you a better rate, but it’s still hideously expensive. To compare: Unwired charges about 8c/MB for data. Different technology I know, but there’s where we’re heading in the long term. Could spectrum pricing differences account for the different end-user pricing? I’ll leave that for someone with better access to the data.

    And how long has it taken to get to 0.3c/kB?

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