You may not need it now, but you could some day – or know someone who will. Some health services already let nurses check in on patients in their homes using existing phone lines, performance is sketchy and functionality limited. Nurses and doctors will use the NBN to conduct natural video consults with remote patients, monitor life-sustaining medical equipment in patients’ homes, and run live therapy and exercise sessions with rural patients who will no longer have to travel hundreds of kilometres to capital-city specialists.
2.0 Remote learning
Many schools have fibre connections, but sharing them amongst 1,000 or more users means glacial-speed internet that often leaves teachers struggling to access online resources – and then giving up. The NBN will speed overall school performance and let students participate in faraway classes using interactive whiteboarding and videoconferencing from their homes. This may sound like a luxury in city areas, but in rural areas – where small schools can’t offer many essential classes because they don’t have enough students to justify a teacher – virtual classes will link students across large geographical distances and make otherwise unviable classes possible.
Naysayers inevitably like to talk about how well Skype offers video over the internet, and for free. But quality and bandwidth varies online, and those depending too heavily on Skype are often disappointed. On the NBN, increased bandwidth and guaranteed quality of service will ensure a better-quality result all around – whether you’re running Skype or using videoconferencing as part of other services. This opens up tremendous possibilities: communicate with loved ones; learn a new language with a native speaker; conduct corporate board meetings without the cost and bother of travelling to a central location.
If you’re into online gaming, you already know how bad ping times can affect your performance. It may seem like a frivolous application for the NBN, but around 1 million Australian households are signed up to the PlayStation Network alone. With gaming a multi billion-dollar market, improved ping times, speed and reliability will give your gaming a new lease of life. Ditto in-game voice and video chats, which the NBN will handle without flinching.
5.0 Smart Homes
They won’t be here overnight, but smart meters – those much-discussed, expensive boxes that will track your energy usage in real time – will also be permanent links to the outside world. Remote-controlled dishwashers and off-peak washing machines are too far-fetched to care about, but how about logging into your home’s security system to watch your dog while you’re interstate, review video of the guy who just made off with your jewellery, or just turn off the lights and iron you left on in the rush out the door? The NBN’s ubiquitous connectivity will make these sorts of uses commonplace and easy.
6.0 Working from Home
It may be tricky if you’re a bricklayer by trade, but people in more and more jobs are finding that adequate broadband helps them take their work home with them – and participate in team meetings via videoconferencing as if they were at the office. Whether you’re staying home to look after a sick child, or just can’t be bothered getting out of your PJs, the NBN will let you be at work even when you can’t be at work.
7.0 Media & Entertainment
So we already know that IPTV will bring services like Foxtel and FetchTV to all Australians – but that’s not the end of the entertainment-related bonanza the network will deliver. Say goodbye to video stores: on-demand movie services will let you stream HD movies to your TV in real time. Use better upload speeds to push content to your smartphone in high quality. Hosted music services will stream and play any song, anywhere. Play massively multiplayer online games hosted on remote servers. Share videos with family and friends without having to wait hours while they upload. Bandwidth will, simply, no longer be an obstacle.
8.0 Faster two-way internet
The NBN, of course, will make your internet services more reliable and, in most cases, faster than what you are already using. This not only improves your internet experience significantly, but lets you bring more services into your home at the same time. Equally important are increased upload speeds: there’s no point having fast download speeds if the people at the other end can’t send you data quickly. The NBN will raise the bar and improve the online experience for everyone.
9.0 Interactive shopping
Imagine standing in front of your computer, with a Microsoft Kinect-like camera on you and reading your movements to control an on-screen avatar. Adjust your avatar with your own real measurements, then take it to your favourite online store and try on different combinations of clothes to your heart’s content. Online merchants may have a long way to go still, but – as Second Life showed so well – creating virtual worlds, and shopping in them, is more than possible when you have heaps and heaps of bandwidth.
10.0 Reach Out & Touch Someone
The NBN’s low latency lets you interact with someone far away like they’re in front of you, whether you’re playing guitar with a mate or watching your grandchildren open the presents you sent them for their birthday. Researchers are adding new dimensions to these experiences by building ‘haptic’ systems that transmit touch and movement over the NBN. Squeeze a haptic controller, for example, and your physiotherapist on the other end of the session will feel your grip from far away.