Unifi: the Great Multiplier?

fibre_optic.gifBroadband is broadband, but high speed broadband (HSBB) is a completely different animal. Perhaps its because i’ve recently installed TM’s Unifi in my home that spurred me to start thinking about how critical HSBB is to Malaysia. 

They say, to love you must first know. And before you know, you must first experience. That’s exactly what happened with me. We never know what we’re missing until we’ve actually had a taste of the good stuff.

The definition of a “good” internet connection varies from person to person. For some, as long as the bandwidth is sufficient to access their email and visit a few choice website, this makes them happy. Short periods of downtime or slowness is usually not a problem; email sits there until you read it, and speed is not as important as accessibility. Malaysia started at this point, and many users still refer to this as their locus of use for their internet locations. That’s fine.

But saying that this is all we want is different from what we need, and certainly a far cry from what we should have as a nation. The role of the Government is not only to provide what the people want and need but also to tell the people what they should have. Malaysia has taken the right path with this with our plans for 50% internet penetration by 2010.

On its own, access to the internet certainly has a multiplier effect on its users. “Multiplier” means, whatever could have been done before, is done faster, better, more efficiently now — therefore, it multiplies the impact of the effects of what we do. Example, if before, you could send 1 letter a day by using your typewriter to type it out and sending it to the post office, you can now send 20 letters a day using your computer and an email account. Your ability to produce has just been “multiplied” 20 times.

The internet allows access to information online as well, good or bad. This multiplies our rate of learning, growth and exposure. We can learn things now, sitting in front of the computer screen, 20x faster than if we had to go to school, sit in a classroom and learn from a teacher. 

The history of human development is spurred by such multipliers. Hundreds of years ago, in 1450, Gutenberg invented the printing press and propelled human knowledge beyond the Middle Ages. Edison and the Lightbulb. The Wright Brothers and the airplane. And the Internet of our recent generation. 

But one thing that historians regularly miss is the importance of The Next Great Step. What takes the multiplier and turns it into the Great Multiplier. Which step takes us from 20x faster and better to the quantum leap of 100x faster and better. The jump from 20x to 100x is far greater than the jump from 1x to 20x. Arguably, this next step is just as important. 

With computers, the Great Multiplier was the transistor. With planes, it was the jet engine. With the Internet, it’s High Speed Broadband (HSBB). In Malaysia, the current champion of HSBB is TM’s Unifi.

Sitting in front of my new HSBB-enabled TV last night, surfing through the various, but currently limited IPTV channels, it struck me that with the quality and ease of deployment of IPTV, its just a matter of time before it completely replaces terrestrial TV, and even offer stiff competition against the traditional premium players such as Astro’s satellite TV service. The foundation of the Internet carries the TV signal, and with proper planning the scalability is unmatchable. At a flick of a button, i can purchase additional channels to watch, or even watch the latest Hollywood movies on demand. 

The primer for this, of course, is a stable and reliable internet connection. HSBB delivers that base. Surfing the internet has never been faster, and video buffering on services like YouTube and Vimeo are a thing of the copper wire broadband past. This then makes services such as Khanacademy.org a serious value proposition that can be used to accelerate learning. With basic internet access, and even basic broadband access, the full power of the Internet was held back by artificial barriers. HSBB tears down those barriers in emphatic fashion.

Unifi is available in limited locations today. But if you’re fortunate enough to be covered by its availability, there really shouldn’t be a second thought. HSBB will blow your mind. It really could be the Great Multiplier the Internet has been waiting for.


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