South coast consortium evaluates blue-chip tender

A NSW south coast consortium is evaluating tenders for a multimillion-dollar ATM network infrastructure to link the region's university campuses, schools, Tafes and local council operations.

Consortium partners report the voice and data network will serve the connectivity needs of the University of Wollongong and its new campuses planned for construction in Nowra, Bateman's Bay and Bega.

The network will also connect 169 schools, nine Tafe colleges, and Bega Valley Shire Council, Eurobodalla Shire Council and Shoalhaven Shire Council.

The project, known as the South Coast Telecommunications Network, secured funding from the federal government's Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund.

According to Phil Herrick, project manager, South Coast Telecommunications Network, the consortium is targeting carriers by offering guaranteed business from councils, schools and the university, but there are plans to offer use of the network to the residential community as well.

David Fuller, the University of Wollongong's development officer, told ComputerWorld that 12 carriers submitted tenders by the time applications closed last week.

"The councils already have existing infrastructure and so does the university. We asked basically for [the carriers] to review the whole thing and come up with . . . something that moves us beyond having to rely upon Telstra services, which none of us can afford as users," Fuller said.

Herrick said a goal of the project is to "end distance tariff costs" on the south coast and find the "greatest economic stimulant for the community".

According to Fuller, the project could involve developing a completely new network, or using the existing excess capacity provided by fibre optic links from Optus and Telstra in the region.

Fuller said the consortium will use microwave technology as a benchmark to measure alternative technologies offered in the tenders.

"We've done microwave for quite some years now. We're familiar with the technology, we're comfortable with the technology, we know it will work, and it will match our needs . . . and its scalable," he said.

"We basically used that as a benchmark and said measure yourself against that."

Hoping to secure a carrier who will also manage the data networking side, the consortium expects to make a decision on the tender by the middle of next year.

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