Information about the Gungahlin trial for potential content providers
"Futures Research in the Televillage: A longitudinal study of Gungahlin,
A.C.T." is being conducted by the Interactive Services Consortium of
government, business and social interest groups. Telstra Corporation is
investing up to A$30 million and providing the necessary technological infrastructure,
whilst research input and monitoring comes from the involvement of the Centre
for Communications Policy Research at the University of Canberra, headed
by Dr. Mark Balnaves. The A.C.T. Citizen's Advice Bureau brings a layer
of content provision to the project through its interest in the delivery
of on-line government information services.
Although similar tests have and are being conducted in the USA, Britain,
The Netherlands, Canada and Italy, the Gungahlin project is unique because
it is taking place in a newly established urban residential area in which
the technological infrastructure can be customised to meet the specific
circumstances of the trial.
Although Gungahlin currently comprises about 3,000 households accommodating
around 10,000 people - projected to become 80,000 when development is complete
- the test sample will be narrowed to a focus group of 300 households.
The strategic purpose of the project is to monitor trends in the usage of
broadband services, initially over a two year period, and to relate those
changes to equity and policy issues in the provision of government and private
The consortium has issued a call for content providers interested in the
project to submit proposals. As of November 1995 Telstra is remaining tight-lipped
on the subject of who has already been signed up for the trial, but it is
reasonable to speculate that a number of big players will be involved.
Telstra itself will obviously be keen to conduct in-depth market research
of new on-line services like the White and Yellow Page directories which
recently debuted on the Web; and the ACT and federal governments will want
to deliver community information services of all kinds - particularly revenue-raising
services related to tourism, for example. It would be a surprise if the
major IT players weren't keen to be involved. In particular, Microsoft's
liaison with VISA to provide the means for on-line financial transactions
would make it a likely contender, given that banking and shopping service
providers have a keen interest in test environments for the virtual shopping
plazas of the future.
Because the project supports broadband services one could expect to see
trials of interactive television services (ITV) alongside the delivery of
conventional cable TV products. It's a fair guess that Foxtel content will
feature heavily in this area given that Rupert Murdoch's new pay TV channel
is a joint venture partnership with Telstra.
Paul Thomsen is Telstra Multimedia's gatekeeper for content delivery on
the Gungahlin project.
"We're looking for content which is compelling, the more interactive
the better. That is, people must want to use it and enjoy using it. It must
also be commercially oriented, with good prospects for proceeding to market
and it must be migratable to broadband. On this last point, there will be
a spread of technology through bandwidth, and applications will be matched
according to the bandwidth required. So PC applications which are text-based
won't need to occupy the same territory as video services, for instance."
Gungahlin's broadband infrastructure cable supports data transfer speeds
of up to 64K. No digital satellite provisions are planned at this stage
but that might change if Foxtel merges with Australis, the operator of the
Galaxy pay TV service.
Although the trial is set to run for five years, it is anticipated that
content providers who move into the test environment will use the technical
and market research data gathered to refine their products and services
prior to releasing them into the market. Telstra believes content providers
participating in the trial will be able to test customer reaction to new
services; develop services before all the infrastructure is commercially
available; and have the opportunity to be involved in the early development
of the industry, potentially offering a considerable competitive advantage.
Customers who take part in the trial will be offered a representative variety
of live services and will generally be charged for the services they use.
Content providers will be asked to indicate their charging preferences,
if relevant, for services they intend to offer, during the pre-trial negotiations
with Telstra and must undertake to provide the content and service agreed.
Any content provider involved in the trial must fund its own development,
operational and marketing costs as well as development, operational, marketing
costs, market research and other evaluation costs undertaken by Telstra
Multimedia on its behalf. Other obligations include the provision of technical
support to Telstra to enable its service to be delivered via the infrastructure
and comprehensive customer support for the service which complements the
general customer support provided by Telstra.
The timetable for the Gungahlin trial reads like this:
- 1st quarter 1996: Initial network infrastructure and initial advanced
- 2nd quarter 1996 : Initial interactive applicactions
- 1st quarter 1997: Initial broadband applications
Timing of specific applications and services will be influenced by both
infrastructure and content provider capabilities, as well as the Gungahlin
community's own needs.
The overall goal is to trial the delivery of a spectrum of existing and
new telecommunications-based multimedia services - advanced telephony (e.g.
flip top video phones); pay TV and other video services; and interactive
services - via broadband infrastructure. The full capability to deliver
all services via interactive broadband will develop over several years.
Therefore, it is intended to develop appropriate services using narrow and
mid-band network infrastructures (i.e. PSTN and ISDN networks) in parallel
with those using broadband cable. Over time, there will be a transition
of suitable applications and services to broadband cable-based delivery.
As well as migrating to broadband delivery, successful narrow and mid-band
services may be offered in the broader market using existing network infrastructure.
- Technical specification (hardware and software)
- Commercial specification
- Service management and delivery
- Network and customer support
- Trial feedback
- Summaries of market research
- Advice on service delivery (with respect for individual client confidentiality)
Fern Hill Park, Bruce
Australian Capital Territory, 2167
Fax: 06 250 1100