Queensland to set up it’s own NBN and become startup central

I wonder whether other states have a similar capacity, but it seems the electricity system in Queensland has a fibre optic network with plenty of spare capacity. They just strung it out on the poles, and presumably use it to run the electricity network.

During the recent election campaign I heard Steve Baxter, the Chief Entrepreneur, say that a decision had been made to open the fibre network to businesses in regional towns, which would give them internet speeds equivalent to those in Brisbane CBD. He rated it as the most important piece of state infrastructure since bitumen roads.

On the weekend there was an article in the Sunday Mail (probably pay-walled) which said the facility was already available to businesses on a commercial basis, and could provide an alternative for residents only reachable via satellite in some towns.

    Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Steve Baxter said the plan was a game-changer.

    “The capabilities this could bring to regional Queensland are unmatched anywhere in the world. It’s about time this project happened,” said Mr Baxter, who made his fortune from developing optical fibre networks to serve businesses in Australian cities.

The article goes on to say that PIPE networks, the company Baxter co-founded with Bevan Slattery, sold to the TPG group for $373 million.

The plan was for the government to sell optical fibre infrastructure to service providers who would then sell plans to the public.

There was a copy of the article in the Cairns Post. Itnews also picked up the story:

The effort is intended to lower prices for regional Queenslanders through increased competition. Smaller internet providers would be able to use the state-owned fibre networks to offer residential services.

    The plan has the potential to let regional residents switch from satellite or fixed wireless NBN services to fibre-to-the-home.

    Energy Queensland’s network runs from “Tweed Heads up to the Torres Strait, and from Brisbane across to Birdsville”.

    Queensland chief entrepreneur Steve Baxter said the effort would let local providers “get on and do what NBN [Co] has not”.

    “This will allow regional connectivity back to Brisbane at a lower cost than inner city equivalent services,” he said.

This item went under the radar during the election campaign, but is to be found in pp 83-85 of the Labor platform.

It seems to me that this initiative will have major implications for the official NBN in regional Queensland. I can see it as being of major import to businesses located in central business districts in Queensland’s cities and towns. Hard to see how the homes in suburbs would be connected.

However, the connectivity should be a major boost to businesses in the regions, especially small innovative enterprises looking to sell niche products and services to the world.

During the election campaign I heard no mention of the Advance Queensland initiative, or innovation generally, most of the campaign being sidetracked into Adani, which was basically irrelevant, and the prospect of the LNP having to get into bed with One Nation, which was. Advance Queensland has a surprising genesis. This is from the Courier Mail in December 2016:

    Speaking about the Palaszczuk Government’s Advance Queensland initiative, which was yesterday revealed to be spending millions of taxpayer dollars to fund YouTube stars and untested businesses, [former premier Campbell] Newman said it was “good for Queenslanders”.

    The research used to design the Advance Queensland policy was commissioned and produced when Mr Newman was in power.

    But, speaking in The Sunday Mail, Shadow Innovation Minister Tarnya Smith said it had “failed to live up to the hype and expectations” and was not “of any benefit to Queenslanders”.

    However, Mr Newman, who now works in innovation and start-ups, disagreed with his former party.

Advance Queensland was launched by the ‘do nothing’ Palaszczuk government in July 2015, five months after being elected. The initial $40 million funding has now become $420 million.

Steve Baxter is the second chief entrepreneur and from March at 2017 headquarters was established at The Precinct, in Fortitude Valley’s historic TC Beirne building, where there is now an Innovation Hub which is positioning Queensland as a global startup hotspot.

The TC Beirne building is an old department store in the centre of a precinct simply known as “The Valley” in Brisbane. It’s where back in the old days Russ Hinze, the “Minister for Everything” could not see sex parlours and gambling dens hidden in plain sight.

Here’s a story of a happy entrepreneur CRiskCo CEO Erez Saf, who already has offices in Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley, and who took up an offer of up to $100,000 in equity grant, access to free co-working space for six months, and a ready-made network of mentors and business advisors (which he probably didn’t need):

    in fact this is the pitch that the Queensland government has been using to convince international and interstate startups to relocate to the sunshine state for a minimum of six months under the Hot DesQ program launched as part of the $420 million Advance Queensland initiative.

Seems we have good talent in Australia in particularly data scientists:

    “If you’re here [in Australia] you don’t understand how much harder it is outside. If go out there to find a data scientist in San Francisco, it’s almost impossible.”

    The access to the network that exists between universities, government, and industry – from banks, insurance, and even mining – has also made the Australian market appealing, according to Mr Saf.

There are more stories at Advace Queensland’s Latest News site.

Along the way I picked up this item:

Queensland to build multi-million-dollar tech hub for military drones

    A $50 million centre to develop drone and robotics technology for the Defence Force will be built in Queensland.

    The Palaszczuk Government today welcomed the Federal Government decision to back Queensland’s bid to host the Defence Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Trusted Autonomous Systems.

    It will be a national facility that develops technology like drones and robotics for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

There are 6,500 people working in the defence industry in the state, and in 2015-16 Queensland companies were awarded more than $4.2b in Australian defence contract payments.

Sounds better than building subs. More importantly there are things we can do other than dig up coal, and it seems a thousand flowers will bloom if we plan the right ecosystem.

10 thoughts on “Queensland to set up it’s own NBN and become startup central”

  1. Re State fibre optic services… The idea of using power poles to carry fibre cables was mooted a long time back, but required that rent be paid to the owners of the poles.

    I have NBN based service and it is not too bad, delivering speeds of about 80% of what was promised. It is sufficient for smooth streaming and has been very reliable.

    That said, the roll-out of infrastructure down our substantial front road took around 9 months to travel about 1.6 Km. If that is any way representative of roll-out elsewhere it is not so good and likely accounts for a good part of the lengthy delays.
    Running major cables from power poles, even on a temporary basis should allow many more connections at a much faster rate. This would in turn bring a greatly increased NBN revenue stream and some happy voters. Ergon might consider renting space to NBN, generating revenue for Ergon in the suburbs, not just in country regions.

  2. I like this “piggy-backing” on existing equipment.

    Another instance is altering hydro to allow for pumped hydro. The dams are already built.

    Not so new really: each new type of riad vehicle uses existing road networks; the roads are already built.

  3. Geoff M, I heard of using the electricity system years ago./ Given what is happening in Qld it is surprising the NBN did not investigate the possibilities. I expect in the end there will be one best way into each town, or maybe we will have continued competition so much favoured by some.

    I do recall that when Telstra and Optus were rolling out their HCF networks it was supposed to be competitive, and PJK said that was good. It’s just that they never competed down any particular street, just competed in which streets they would grab.

    Anyway, the state government is fully supporting connectivity which fits with their innovation ‘mission’. Could be exciting times ahead.

  4. HCF networks?
    In our neck of the woods, that was “pretend competition”. One mob would lay fibre optic cable, the other mob would trot along in their wake and lay cable along more or less the same path.

    Like Ansett and TAA: their Sydney/Melb services left 5 minutes apart, meaning the flying traveller wasn’t gaining any flexibility in departure times.

    The word duopoly springs to mind. I can’t imagine why.

    You would think someone as sharp as PJK, may peace be upon him, would have anticipated that, and attempted to ameliorate the shortcomings??

  5. Without the expertise in this area I don’t know if it will work out or not, but it’s a welcomed departure from the usual blanket Federal, ” one size fits all States ” approach we see all the time from Canberra.

    Good competition between independent States trying to attract more businesses and people, the best initiatives will be adopted eventually in other States.

    Steady improvement caused by the magic of competition.

  6. Jumpy good competition is fine but there is a risk of a “race to the bottom” when each competing state throws incentives at proponents to win their decision to say, set up their headquarters in a particular state. If the incentive race gets a bit too intense the benefits of “winning” the race become heavily discounted.

  7. Geoff H,
    I’m not in favour of subsidies to private enterprises at all. Zero.
    It’s the root cause of corruption in Government.

    This case is about less restrictions rather than winner picking as far as I can see.
    I hope I’m correct.

  8. Dunno about the root cause Jumpy. I thought political donations were right up there. Apparently donations buy access to pollies so you can deliver your message personally or with the help of lobbyists. I find it a bit sickening.

  9. Geoff H
    Political donations and lobbying are just the tools use to get subsidies.
    Also handily use to get reduced competition which effectively stifles innovation and raises prices.

    If AP allows other players to use existing infrastructure at no cost to the taxpayers then she gets a tick of approval for it from me.

  10. Geoff H

    I share your concern about a “race to the bottom”, by States competing to attract businesses, to set up HQ or factories etc. in their own State.

    Corrosive effects have sometimes been observed in Australia.
    A “tax holday” here, a loan there, incentives outbidding sweeteners.

    Political donations are only the tip of the iceberg, I reckon.
    But it’s a shonky tip……

    OTOH, I think Mr J is correct to ssy the best ideas get copied very swiftly and spread…. Capitalism provides a way. Human ingenuity and commonsense have roles too. Co-operation is handy too.

    Progress is not monocausal, Mr J.

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