Australia's higher education sector is serious about unified communications with three universities investing more than $12 million in developing innovative networks that can deliver a multimedia experience to students.
RMIT University will invest $7 million in the rollout of 5,000 IP handsets to lay the foundation for its unified comms and multimedia services which will be made available to its 3,500 staff and 60,000 students.
The university is trialling Nortel's Multimedia Communications Server (MCS) with an eye to implementing advanced services such as desktop video conferencing.
The MCS product will also determine the impact of click-to-call and instant desktop messaging on staff working across multiple decentralised campuses, and how it might change the way they work, acccording to Allan Morris, the university's executive director of IT services.
"Just like e-mail changed behaviour in the workplace, we are keen to see the effects that collaboration, presesnce and other technologies can have on workplace behaviour and productivity, and what new opportunities they present," he said.
Another two universities have inked multi-million dollar network deals with Nortel this week including Sydney's Macquarie University and Edith Cowan University in Perth.
Macquarie has just invested in a new data network to deliver always-on access to more than 30,000 students both on-campus and online.
The new network completely replaces its existing infrastructure and provide a platform for IP services such as multimedia, video conferencing and IP telephony.
Macquarie's infrastructure services manager, Peter Hole, said as the organization migrates more business critical services like lectures and exam results to the Web, its old infrastructure really began to show its age.
"Our network is very different from a corporate or government network because the number of connections and users is much higher, the spread of the network much greater, and we don't have as much control over the types of connected devices," he said.
"Also, our users are from a generation in which technology is not magic and 24/7 uptime is expected."
Edith Cowan's (ECU) upgrade is aimed at increasing bandwidth and delivering Gigabit speeds to the desktop, which is a prerequisite for realtime multimedia communications.
ECU IT infrastructure manager, Steve Johnston, the upgrade will also provide better security access management to control the thousands of hyperconnected wired and wireless devices as well as simplify management of the entire multi-campus network from a central console.
He said this is the second phase of ECU's five year network upgrade project which began in 2006.
Nortel A/NZ managing director, Mark Stevens, said hyperconnectivity wasn't on the radar two years ago but today it's one of the biggest trends affecting major network centres like universities, where anything that can benefit from being connected to a network is connected.