TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: Questioning the wisdom of NBN fibre

Marc Benioff of believes the NBN's fibre push is great but that the real action lies in the 4G LTE space.

Technology Spectator

Fibre doesn’t matter when it comes to broadband access says Marc Benioff, CEO of the cloud computing giant at the company’s annual Dreamforce conference.

When asked about the wisdom of rolling out fibre networks such as Google Fiber in Kansas City or Australia’s National Broadband Network the Salesforce CEO said "I’m all in favour of more bandwidth, the better – and I think that’s great.”

"But I think at the end of the day we’re going to be moving into an LTE generation pretty quickly and I think everything is going to be wireless and that it’s these new LTE networks are pretty awesome.

"When you have an iPad or some other type of mobile device and you’ve got LTE on it, you’re more than able to run your entire enterprise off of these services.”

Earlier in the day Benioff showcased some of these mobile applications including the Commonwealth Bank’s smartphone services to an audience of 15,000 people in a three hour keynote speech that launched a number of new social media, HR and customer service products.

In a session following the keynote, major Salesforce customers including Virgin America and the CBA answered questions on their cloud strategies. The Commonwealth Bank’s chief marketing officer Andy Larke described his good relationship with CIO Michael Harte as the key to successfully launching the bank’s mobile and social initiatives.

The Dreamforce conference that’s in its second of four days has showcased some of the ways business is changing from General Electric’s socially connected GEnx jet engine, radically changing supply chains, HR tools through to the Commonwealth Bank’s iPhone apps.

How well those Commonwealth Banking Services would work outside of the limited areas that Telstra and Optus have rolled out their 4G networks isn’t clear and this may be where Marc Benioff’s belief in wireless will fall over in the Australian market.

While there’s no doubt these tools could run on 4G or LTE networks it would require major investments from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to deliver these services to suburban and regional Australia.

As we saw with the 3G and PayTV rollouts, these rollouts usually result in a fragmented network outside the inner suburbs of the capital cities which is why both the Howard and Rudd governments struggled with schemes to deliver broadband access prior to the NBN being formulated.

The new technology and business tools on show at Dreamforce show just how quickly these services are evolving, when asked by French journalist if cloud computing could help solve the European debt crisis, Benioff was in no doubt Salesforce could do that and spoke of the savings the Japanese government has realised with his products.

While solving Europe’s or Japan’s fiscal crises may be an exaggeration, there’s no doubt that cloud services like Salesforce are changing the way businesses and governments work. It would be a pity for most of Australia to miss out for lack of broadband access.

Paul Wallbank travelled to Dreamforce 2012 courtesy of Salesforce.

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