Researchers and vendors will be able to test their applications and equipment on a fully operational model of the National Broadband Network (NBN) within two months.
Melbourne University’s Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES), which was launched with $2 million in Victorian Government funding within six weeks of the Federal Government’s announcement of the NBN, will host the model network.
Former Bell Labs employee and IBES director, Professor Rod Tucker, said researchers developing applications will be able to test the performance of their creations on the end-to-end network. Vendors will also be able to run their equipment next to other vendor’s gear to test for interoperability.
“What we are doing is building a test bed which will be an operating model of the National Broadband Network using the latest state of the art equipment; the kind that will be used in the NBN,” he said. “This equipment will be largely donated by vendors that will be participating.”
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IBES is also running a series of workshops around the university for researchers to interact and throw up ideas for new projects and possibilities for the network. In its short existence, the institute has already attracted between 30 to 50 researchers working on projects across its initial five research themes: Education and Learning; Health and Wellbeing; Social Infrastructure and Communities; Service and Business Transformation; and Network Deployment and Economics.
Tucker said he expected both the number of themes and researchers to grow over time, with up to 100 people forecast to be onboard by early next year.
“In parallel to this we have been working very closely with industry to get them involved. Because it is really important they work closely with research. So we have about 12 and soon will have 15 companies that are members of the institute.”
These include Cisco, Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Optus, Ericsson and NICTA.
While much of the technology for the NBN is already commercially available, Tucker, who has 20-year’s experience as a professor in telecommunications, said it was important to continue work on applications and access technologies.
“By the time the rollout of the National Broadband Network is finished in about 8 years time, there will be a new generation. It is still important to work on new technologies. We are talking about 100Mb to the home with current GPON technology. But in 8 years time it will probably be quite easy to upgrade to 1Gb to the home,” he said.
“Some of those less enthusiastic to the National Broadband Network have suggested that 100Mb per second is more than you can need. But there has never been any evidence in history of this kind of thing on a limit of bandwidth that people want. As applications have grown and they’ve become more bandwidth hungry there has always been a move to higher speeds. I can remember not long ago that people were arguing you didn’t need anything more than dial up. But of course that is well and truly passed now. A gigabyte to the home could be on the cards.”
Last week, work officially commenced on the Cambridge to Midway Point section of the NBN in Tasmania, with the first cables being laid in five-year-old foundations.