Updated: CSIRO, NICTA sign MoU with NBN Co for access to test sites

CSIRO and NICTA will gain access to NBN first and second trial sites to test high speed broadband applications

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), National ICT Australia (NICTA) and the NBN Co have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to allow access for the research bodies to National Broadband Network test sites for the trial of broadband applications and technologies.

CSIRO ICT centre director, Ian Oppermann, signed the MoU along with NICTA acting chief executive, Phil Robertson and NBN Co’s Mike Kaiser at the CeBit conference in Sydney.

Commenting on the agreement, Oppermann said it would enable innovation via the testing of a range of research applications such as e-health, e-government, smart grids, smart infrastructure, education and entertainment.

"What it means is that there is the possibility to explore more of these different applications and not only what they can deliver in their own right but in an NBN context, as well as the way that people engage the NBN," he said.

NBN Co's Kaiser said the company wanted "leading broadband innovators" to access the NBN as soon as possible so they can road test their technologies and services to ensure they are ‘NBN ready’.

“With this arrangement we will have that confidence, and also know that people with expertise have early access for the development of new applications,” Kaiser said.

The CSIRO and NICTA have been working together in the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI) to develop, demonstrate and evaluate applications and service to enable to widespread availability of broadband.

“Having access to the National Broadband Network means we can verify the performance and effectiveness of our broadband technologies and services with real people in the real world,” Oppermann said.

“NICTA and the ABC have been testing a ‘Social TV’ service and new set-top box technology in a fibre-to-the-home trial at the Parkbridge housing estate near Liverpool in south-west Sydney,” Robertson said. “We see the MoU as an exciting opportunity to expand this work to other NBN early-release sites.”

According to Oppermann, where the NBN Co’s ability to innovate was constrained due to concerns over public callout over any technical hitches the CSIRO was free to bring innovation to the NBN rollout and push ahead with its Ngara wireless over analogue television spectrum technology.

Following on from field trials in Tasmania in December and March at its Marsfield headquarters, Oppermann said the CSIRO was now moving toward aggregating channels to deliver 50mbps in six parallel streams to and from different sites.

“The NBN is being rolled out under enormous scrutiny, and given the price tag associated with it is perhaps not surprising, but that scrutiny means that it is being rolled out using as low-risk opportunities and low-risk components as possible,” he said.

“To connect as many people as possible there has not been a great deal of room or space for innovation in the NBN; taking very much off the shelf components, trusted solutions, standard ones. All of this means innovation on the NBN needs to come from other sources.”

ACBI appoints first director

The ABCI has also appointed its first director, with Chris Griffith taking on the role, bringing his knowledge of media and government policies and projects.

Griffiths has previously worked to establish the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) online service and managed its new media and innovation division. He was also the general manager of the NSW Government’s chief information office where he worked to support new forms of service delivery in areas such as health, education and government services.

“ACBI is about demonstrating and developing new applications and services that can utilise the capabilities of next generation broadband networks,” Griffith said. “We will be making broadband practical and useful for people and testing the best ideas on both an emulation environment and the real NBN.”

Griffith will be supported in his role by an advisory committee which includes:

  • Malcolm Long (Chair), chairman of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA)
  • Richard Windeyer, first assistant secretary of the Federal Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE)
  • Michael Coutts-Trotter, director general NSW Department of Finance and Services
  • Barry Buffier, deputy director-general, NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services
  • Mike Kaiser, principal, Government Relations and External Affairs NBN Co
  • Ian Oppermann, director, CSIRO ICT Centre
  • Terry Percival, NICTA director, Broadband and the Digital Economy

    Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @tlohman

    Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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