NBN Co eyes new tech with $3M university R&D investment
The company behind the country’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has struck multi-year research and development (R&D) deals with both the University of Melbourne (UoM) and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
It is understood that each of the new relationships is worth up to $1.5 million per university, or $3 million cumulatively.
The initial three-year relationships are designed to facilitate R&D to be jointly conducted with the two universities in core areas such as robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), programmable networks, data analytics and visualisation for customer experience, artificial intelligence (AI), wireless technologies and smart cities.
According to NBN Co, each of the focus areas align under the goal of collaboration to “adapt new ideas and translate innovation into a commercial reality”.
NBN Co said it is continuously developing new technologies that will help enable better services for Australians on its network, suggesting that the new collaboration arrangements are part of its efforts to support this goal.
“Combining our technical resources with UTS and UoM in these relationships should enhance our ability to bring new technologies into the market that will help us improve the end-user experience and positively impact people’s lives,” NBN Co said in a statement.
At the same time, giving UTS and UoM access to NBN Co’s technical resources is expected to be beneficial to the universities themselves and their students in terms of gaining access to real-world telecoms network operational data.
“These two new relationships will help NBN Co double down on our strong focus on technology innovation for customer experience and operational excellence,” NBN Co chief technology officer Ray Owen said.
“With these innovative institutions – UoM and UTS – we saw a natural fit in helping NBN Co further enable the digital economy,” he said.
The move comes as NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow concedes that the network’s rollout under the Federal Government’s preferred multi-technology mix (MTM) model, which incorporates existing legacy network infrastructure, has led to some service delivery problems for end customers.
In a recent position paper, seen by ARN, Morrow outlined the technical basis for a number of the service issues experienced by end customers of the network, much of which stems from the legacy infrastructure being used under the mixed technology rollout model.
“While the use of the existing copper and pay TV networks has led to a faster network build and a lower cost-per-premises, there are consequences to this approach,” Morrow said in the position paper.
“The first and most notable consequence is the maximum speed limitations of copper versus the previous fibre-based model.
“A second consequence of the use of copper in the last (approximately) 1km of the network is the increased fault rate and operating costs versus the all-fibre alternative,” he said, stressing that the costs still remain less than those of a mostly-fibre alternative.
The NBN and the company behind its rollout have weathered heavy scrutiny by the public and other stakeholders due to ongoing connection and performance issues as the network’s rollout has picked up pace over the past year.