By Lana Guineay
Think of the word ‘infrastructure’, and you probably picture the most visible elements – the roads, expressways, transport systems – that shape our city and the skyline.
But in the digital age it’s the invisible infrastructure that can make the biggest impact on the ways we work, live, and communicate.
Ten Gigabit Adelaide, Australia’s first super-fast fibre optic network, can’t be seen with the naked eye but its effects could be game-changing, says City of Adelaide CEO Mark Goldstone.
Set to boost the city’s economic future, attract and retain business, and help keep young people in the state, the network could generate an estimated 2500 jobs over the next six years, providing between $16 and $76.4m in economic benefits, according to analysis from the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies.
Designing the city of the future is all in a day’s work for Mark.
Appointed in 2015, he says creating the “world’s most liveable city” through connectivity has been on the agenda from day one.
“Connectivity is the core of what we’re trying to do … Ten Gigabit Adelaide is a really strong component of that strategy.”
The idea for the Australian-first project came out of initial conversations Mark and his team had with the city’s business community which was seeing internet latency and dropouts impact their operations in the worst possible way.
“People were saying, ‘the NBN is slow, broadband is slow’, we had businesses telling us they knew when the kids were getting home from school because the internet would slow down.”
Bypass the existing internet altogether.
“We started to think through the principal problem: the internet literally all comes through limited numbers of submarine cables crossing the world’s oceans, so the more people who use it, the more the capacity drops. So what if we could bypass that problem altogether?,” Mark says.
“From there we started to talk about making the city of Adelaide the most connected city in Australia – if not the world.”
Ten Gigabit Adelaide uses a fibre optic network – completely separate to the NBN or GigCity – to enable businesses in the CBD to send big packets of data, quickly and securely between their offices, business partners and clients around the world.
Almost 1000 buildings made up of about 4000 businesses have already signed up, with the network being progressively rolled out to 1000 buildings within the next one to two years.
The project is being delivered by partner TPG Telecom, and will see each building have its own fibre connection, and the only limit to speeds will be the gadgets at each end of the fibre.
As well as giving data-intensive industries in the CBD a competitive advantage, it has the potential to attract new international investment and business.
“At the moment Adelaide’s internet is low speed and high in cost… [with Ten Gigabit Adelaide] we’ll be world-leading in speed and cost,” says Mark.
“With this network, Adelaide will be really well-placed for local, national and international businesses to call Adelaide home. It’s a pretty exciting time.”
Local industries to directly benefit include the $90b defence industry, as well as medical, cybersecurity, technology, gaming, and education sectors, and any others that rely on moving big data.
But it’s not just for big business.
The network will speed up the city’s free WiFi network to meet increasing demand; residential internet will be freed-up once big businesses shift over to the fibre network; and more businesses means more jobs.
While gig fibre networks have been used before, the technology has so far been confined to technology parks and major businesses due largely to the cost.
“It’s unique for a city to do this,” Mark says.
With its grid-like layout and well-defined parkland parameters, Adelaide makes an ideal “test bed”, he says.
The new infrastructure will add to the city’s desirable lifestyle to make Adelaide “an alternative to mega cities but a place that is interconnected to the rest of the world,” Mark says.
“The boss of a global tech business recently said to me, ‘if I send an email out to all my staff saying who wants to move to Adelaide, all 1200 staff would say they’d move tomorrow because they know what the culture in Adelaide is like.”
“We don’t just want population growth for growth sake, we want quality population growth with high skilled people to come here for their jobs and careers to progress.
“We’re creating the enabling infrastructure that will attract new businesses and grow existing businesses, that will in turn create 21st Century jobs to attract the people the city needs for resilient growth.”
Top image: Adelaide city from space, via Tim Kopra/Twitter
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