Workers construct the NBN in Tasmania. Photo: Alastair Bett
Australians linked to the national broadband network will be able to get world-leading internet download speeds of one gigabit per second by the end of this year, the company building the network will announce on Friday.
While some countries such as Japan are moving even further ahead with 2Gbps connections, Australia's coming 1Gbps capability is the same speed as Google's cutting edge fibre network in several US cities.
An entire movie could be pulled down in several seconds using the service, which is about 100 times faster than the average speeds offered by ADSL connections. But most people would not see the true benefit of 1Gbps for another 10 years, when households would have multiple rooms streaming super high definition video from the internet, according to Professor Rod Tucker, director of the institute for a broadband-enabled society at the University of Melbourne.
"The average person who does regular internet activities is probably not going to notice much difference today,'' Professor Tucker said. ''Where I think it will make a difference is in small businesses.''
Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said right now only about 5 per cent of people, mainly small businesses, would be able to make use of the increased speed.
The wholesale price for the 1Gbps service will be $150 a month, though retailers will add a margin to this. NBN Co will also launch two other high speed services - 250Mbps and 500 Mbps - by December.
NBN Co's announcement comes as the company's chief executive, Mike Quigley, prepares to spend Friday being interrogated by a parliamentary committee over roll-out delays. It is understood he will refute claims by the Coalition that NBN Co prices will increase.
Sharp words are likely to be exchanged at the day-long hearings between Mr Quigley and Malcolm Turnbull, the opposition's communications spokesman. Mr Turnbull has said on many occasions he believes Mr Quigley is unqualified to run the company building the NBN and he would sack him.
And Mr Quigley said he believes Labor's more expensive "fibre to the premises" technology is better than the Coalition's cheaper, slower alternative which relies on decaying copper telephone lines.
Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Lee questioned whether the announcement of 1Gbps speeds was a "political ploy" by Mr Quigley to increase pressure on the Coalition.
"To be rolling out 1Gbps to everybody when they are so far behind their corporate plan targets you would question the methodology or the thinking behind it," Mr Lee said.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.