Defence to upgrade communications network

Department says it will move to high speed IP-based network by 2012
Defence will upgrade its communications network by 2012. Image credit: Department of Defence

Defence will upgrade its communications network by 2012. Image credit: Department of Defence

Defence has flagged it will contract with a prime service provider to update its Defence Terrestrial Communications Network (DTCN), replacing it with a high-speed Internet Protocol (IP) based network by 2012.

The prime contractor will also help defence consolidate and transform various Defence communications and information domains into a single, properly governed information environment.

The new network will also support improved integration and data exchange with Australian allies and coalition partners and other government agencies, improve network capacity management, and deliver collaboration tools such as document collaboration, voice and video conferencing.

“Defence needs to remediate and reform its Terrestrial Communications network by building an integrated, high-capacity, highly reliable network which enables Defence to improve the conduct of operations and the management of its business,” Defence documents on the communications upgrade read.

“Building such a network will provide the basis for Defence’s future networked force, enabling the linking of sensors, command, engagement and support systems, building greater interoperability with the highly networked forces of our principal ally, the US, and with our other allies and coalition partners.”

A reformed network capability would also benefit all combat, combat support, command and intelligence capabilities, as well as help improve the “critical backbone” of Defence by enabling greater automation and self-service in Defence functions.

Defence’s communications network – which comprises over 330 Defence sites in Australia and at selected permanent overseas sites - consists of 487 PABX and Key Systems, and 165,000 equipped ends including 22,000 trunks.

Its WAN consists of Nortel Passport multi-service switches, 400 Cisco routers, low and high grade cryptographic equipment, and 1200 links ranging between 512kb to 622Mb.

Its video conferencing set up includes a secure ISDN service with about 250 end points.

Its BAN and LAN services consist of 170,000 Ethernet and ATM ports from Enterasys, Cisco, Nortel, Baystack, Alloy and other OEMs.

Earlier this month, Defence said it will overhaul the communications on its fleet of its Collins class submarines, replacing the existing Communications Centre (COMMCEN) and implementing a new External Communications System (ECS).

The ECS will also incorporate a High Data Rate Satellite Communications link, allowing connectivity to the Defence information environment and the Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network.

The satellite communications system will operate in the Super High Frequency band and allow the submarines to exchange data at rates more than 25 times faster.

The replacement of the Collins Class ECS will provide Australia’s submarine fleet with a modern communications architecture that will meet the future operational needs of the submarines.

Both upgrades are part of ongoing reforms within the department called the Strategic Reform Program (SRP).

The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, recently linked the full implementation of the program to the ability of Australia to defend itself in the future.

In a recent address to the Defence Senior Leadership Group in Canberra, Faulkner said the SRP was not only about delivering savings and efficiencies, it was an integral component of the Government’s Defence strategy white paper.

“It is the means by which we will build an organisation capable of delivering and sustaining Force 2030,” he said. “To be blunt, while we have already started to build Force 2030 through decisions over the past year, achieving it in its full potential will not be possible without achieving the SRP in all its dimensions." He added: "Reform will not be easy. We have the opportunity and responsibility to make the SRP a reality. In doing so, we will create the Defence organisation Australia needs to help secure its future."

Force 2030 is Defence’s plan to equip the military to deal with strategic change in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Force 2030 report identified that Defence's ICT environment is fragmented to the point that less than half of the $1.2 billion spent by the agency is visible to the CIO, resulting in inefficiencies in delivery.

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