AARNet deploys telepresence system for Aussie universities

The service will enable cross institutional telepresence meetings between the universities for the first time

Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) has jumped on the video conferencing bandwagon, doing a deal with Cisco for the implementation of its Telepresence Exchange System.

The deal will enable AARNet to connect six participating universities locally and internationally, including, Monash and Swinburne University which are currently using the system, and Deakin University, Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne University and University of Queensland which are in the midst of implementation. The system will facilitate cross institutional meetings which they have not previously had the capabilities to do.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia, AARNet director applications and services, James Sankar, said while the universities are responsible for working with Cisco in terms of the telepresence installation, which they then develop for their research collaborations or teaching and learning capabilities, AARNet will provide the “glue” that connects those systems together.

“We’re almost like the local telephone exchange so to speak that allows you to press a button and dial to each of the other institutions telepresence systems.”

The service will come online for AARNet customers progressively from October this year, and will expand on the network’s existing National Video Conferencing Service (NVCS) which was established in 2006.

“Both parties are working on the build at the moment with a view to get that service operational in October, from there it’s a case of connecting up these and other universities nationally and internationally,” he said. “Once we have a stable and robust service, we can look at how we can develop it further by which I mean developing the international component, exchanges in Australia to other international exchanges in the future.”

The service will allow customers to conduct virtual meetings the telepresence system at different locations and enable meeting participants from across Australia to participate.

According to Sankar, the system would provide a more immersive environment compared to the (NVCS), and allow participants to have face-to-face meetings as they would if they were in the same room.

“This new service removes geographical barriers, providing Australia’s research and education community direct exposure to instructors, colleagues and experts across the nation,” he said in a statement.

“This new solution is an exciting expansion to the video conferencing capabilities supported by AARNet,” he said. “It will sit alongside our existing high definition video bridging service, providing a launching pad for next generation video conferencing services.”

“Whether we are talking about teaching, learning or research, there is no doubt that how education institutions are augmenting how educators and students communicate and collaborate is changing in an unprecedented manner,” Swinburne University CIO and AARNet board member, Richard Constantine, said in a statement. “Swinburne University is looking forward to the added capability of Cisco TelePresence to enable collaborative education and research between the well-renown Parkes Observatory, Swinburne’s Advanced Technology Centre, five Victorian campuses and others nationally and worldwide.”

The research network recently flagged plans to convert its network to 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps) within 12 months following the successful 40Gbps trial on its East Coast optical network.

AARNet’s chief operating officer, Don Robertson, said the trial, which began on 2 May this year, was a stepping stone to becoming a 100Gbps network.

“That’s the plan; the only reason we’ve done this at 40Gbps is because it’s the same technology — so proving it at 40Gbps means it will work at 100Gbps. And as soon as the 100Gbps equipment, which is a little way off from Cisco — some months perhaps — becomes available we will actually go straight to 100Gbps,” Robertson said at the time.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet)

More about AARNetCiscoDeakin UniversityDeakin UniversityePresenceetworkSwinburne UniversityTechnologyUniversity of QueenslandUniversity of QueenslandVictoria UniversityVictoria University

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