An Australia that did not build high-speed internet infrastructure could slide in its GDP rankings and regional influence, according to Communications Alliance chief John Stanton.
Stanton outlined at an event yesterday his key learnings from an Austrade-led delegation to regional internet powerhouses Japan, South Korea and Singapore in October.
He said the mission had provided "very interesting comparisons in what these economies were doing with their next generation networks".
The delegation met with "more than 50 entities, including private companies and government departments" in the three nations.
In all three countries, Stanton said, the development of next-generation broadband networks was part of long-term, bilaterally supported ICT visions.
"The Korean vision was articulated in 1987 and has survived five governments," he said.
Stanton said that all three nations visited saw "FTTH based on GPON at least 100 Mbps as the best way to go to future-proof their networks".
He also said that there was typically "no fibre versus wireless" debate regionally compared to in Australia.
"[The visited countries] knew about it [the debate] in Australia and thought it a bit peculiar," Stanton said.
"They are planning WiMAX or LTE networks but they are seen as complimentary. Their focus is more on ensuring seamless connectivity to whichever network makes sense – so wherever you go and want to be connected [to the internet] you're able to be."
Likewise, there had been few attempts to perform a "comprehensive cost-benefit analysis" on builds overseas – as had been the debate in Australia – although Japan had attempted to put together some in-depth calculations of the benefits that high-speed fibre to the home could provide.
"Governments in all the countries simply accepted that the rollout of fast networks would lead to economic growth," Stanton said.
"We saw a lot of calculations but none of the countries had really attempted a comprehensive cost benefit analysis which has been part of the debate here.
"Japan came closest with a Ministry of Internal Affairs study on the value to the Japanese economy as a result of rolling out fast broadband to 100 percent of the population".
Stanton said the study showed that high-speed infrastructure would cause an economic uplift of some $908 billion between now and 2020.
Extrapolating that figure to an Australian context, he claimed that "if the same assumptions [in the study] held", that the Australian economy could see a potential uplift of $182 billion in the next decade.
Stanton said the Japanese study had also attempted to predict what would happen if high-speed internet infrastructure investments weren't made.
The study purportedly found Japan's world ranking in GDP terms would slip from three today to eight by 2050.
"If we were to suffer a similar slop down GDP rankings, I think personally that would be a poor outcome for our country and reduce our influence regionally," he said.