Nortel envisages a wireless Wollongong

Nortel Networks plans to boost the Illawarra IT economy with a $4 million dollar research and development house at Wollongong University.

The Nortel Networks Technology Centre will focus on developing and demonstrating "killer applications" to customers such as wireless internet applications, smart phones and fibre optics.

"Several parts of the Asia Pacific and Australia are ahead of the US in WAP technology, said Reg Bird, president, service provider solutions for Nortel Asia-Pacific.

The "wireless internet" is the core message Nortel will push at the IT centre. "Value-added services, for example, allowing you to check share quotations, the weather or where the next service station is while you're driving down the road," were possibilities that Bird offered as outcomes of the wireless internet.

Nortel Networks' executives were "aggressive in their overtures" to secure Wollongong university to host the centre, said Bird.

He feels Nortel's new venture will accommodate the changing face of the area's labour market from a traditionally labour-intensive one and "steel city" stigma to a web savvy community.

"If you want to get a good job in society, chances are it will be in high tech," Bird claimed. He says the local IT industry has experienced 15 per cent annual growth.

Having a "world-class" telecommunications company on campus is a strong marketing tool for the university, he believes.

"Wollongong has a reputation for its great university." Bird said the facility offers an ideal training ground for computer science and engineering students, particularly PhD students, seeking a head start in their IT careers.

"Wollongong has incredible encouragement and confidence from local government, " he said citing backing from Michael Egan, NSW Treasurer and Minister for State Development, at last week's opening ceremony.

Bird expects the centre's head count to grow from 117 to 200 by the end of the year. "Our attrition rate is very low," he said.

The facility expands on Nortel's current investment in Australia's recruitment and telecommunications export markets.

Bird said the centre's location will attract IT professionals due to is closeness to Sydney, an international airport and "beautiful" surroundings.

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