A $280 million fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout to all NSW public schools and TAFE institutions is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Minister for Education and Training, Verity Firth announced this week.
The Telstra-backed rollout has reached 95 per cent completion, with a total 4,500 kilometres of optic fibre being rolled out to more than 2,400 sites since . Schools were targeted to receive connections of between 4 megabits per second (Mbps) and 100Mbps depending on requirements, though some reported external WAN connections of up 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
Despite the finalisation of the project later this year, the $280 million contract is expected to last a further three years.
Former department chief information officer, Stephen Wilson, signalled the importance of the rollout earlier this year as a coping measure for the exponential increases in usage by students and staff. In March, he reported average data usage of 100 terabytes (TB) per month, and indicated expectations this could double by the end of the year.
That traffic surged has been directly linked to the rollout of 66,000 laptops to teachers and Year Nine students under the Federal Government’s $2.2 billion Digital Education Revolution initiative. Wilson told CIO the department now had to cope with 500,000 devices in total across the network, many of which accessed the network through one of 22,000 wireless access points also distributed across schools over the past year.
However, Wilson left his posting as CIO at the department after five years to become Qantas’ head of technology, leaving the role wide open.
In addition to the fibre rollout, the department signed a separate $70 million contract with Telstra to double its total bandwidth capacity from headquarters to schools to 4Gbps, through two new trunks to be rolled out, which had also been completed according to a Telstra spokesperson.
“We expected to run out of capacity and indeed that is the case… this is explosive growth by any means,” Wilson said at a Sydney conference earlier in the year.
The fibre rollout is also expected to boost use of technology within the classroom, as the $158 million Connected Classrooms program sees the rollout of new interactive whiteboards and experiments continue with high definition video conferencing across classes and for distance students.
“Only ten contracted schools now remain and we expect those sites to be connected by the end of this year – which is still within schedule,” Firth said in a statement. “The infrastructure rollout has now been officially met having exceeded the contracted target of 95% completion.”