CSIRO to trial Ngara wireless in Armidale, December

Commercialisation efforts for wireless over analogue TV spectrum project continue

The CSIRO will move to the next stage of testing its Ngara wireless technology in December this year with plans for field trials in the NSW town of Armidale.

The trials will involve the research agency testing the technology across multiple analogue television spectrum channels among 12 user sites in Armidale, which is also a mainland trial site for the National Broadband Network. According to communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, some 90 per cent of the 5739 eligible premises have opted for a fibre-to-the-home connection.

CSIRO used six user sites over a single seven megahertz (MHz) analogue television channel in its last trials, carried out in the NBN-connected Tasmanian town of Smithton last December.

Where the last trials included streaming content, video conferencing and web browsing, the Armidale trial will involve using an updated version of the CSIRO’s e-health collaboration Remote Immersive Diagnostic Examination System (RIDES). Along with effectively cutting the wires to the bandwidth-intensive application, the next big step in the Ngara trials would be the use of channel aggregation, CSIRO ICT Centre director, Ian Oppermann, told Computerworld Australia.

“With one seven megahertz channel our target was 12 megabits per second to and from a farm for six or twelve users, depending on how much electronics we threw at it,” he said. “The next step is to aggregate channels so we have 100 megabits per second (Mbps) we can share between the uplink and downlink."

According to Opperman, the channel aggregation method could yield speeds of either 75Mbps downlink and 25 uplink, or synchronous 50Mbps speeds both up and down.

To accelerate collaboration between the agency and the private sector on the Ngara project the CSIRO will also hold an invite-only ‘open day’ in March to showcase the latest developments and tweaks to the technology based on the Tasmanian trials, Oppermann said.

The CSIRO was also continuing its discussions with networking vendors for potential collaboration and commercialisation of the project. The technology could potentially form the fixed wireless technology used to serve the last seven per cent of Australian premises under the NBN, but there have been no confirmed negotiations as yet with the network wholesaler NBN Co.

NBN Co last week purchased Austar's 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands of spectrum for $120 million, proving the first step to deploy fixed wireless as part of the NBN.

“We are also negotiating with commercial partners to come in to the [Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation] to not only provide some telco equipment… but help validate services in an NBN-like environment, if not actually the NBN,” he said.”

“With that we can take on the role of public service validation... and we are looking to have corporates come and trial some of their technology in our environment and have our technology in their environment as well as help build the information architecture that is necessary.”

The Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI), launched in December last year, is a partnership between the CSIRO, National ICT Australia (NICTA) and the NSW Government to develop new applications for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The local research hub for broadband application development began work this year with $7.5 million in funding over three years from government agency Industry & Investment NSW.

Oppermann also recently highlighted the role wireless-enabled smartphones could play in the delivery of health services, arguing mobile devices and networking speeds were now good enough to deliver some forms of remote care.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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