The Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) is in negotiations with universities covered by the National Broadband Network’s (NBN) first mainland release sites in an attempt to offer “always-on access” to students and researchers at their homes.
AARNet was announced today as one of 12 retail service providers to offer NBN services to the first five release sites on the mainland, which cover around 3000 premises each in areas of NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
Chief executive, Chris Hancock, told Computerworld Australia following the announcement that while the service provider continued to explore options, it would likely only offer services to eligible premises in Armidale near the University of New England campus, and Townsville near a campus of James Cook University. Both universities are already connected to AARNet’s on-net fibre network, which provides symmetric speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) to 38 universities as well as research institutions such as the CSIRO.
Even in those two sites, the service would only be offered to staff and students deemed eligible by the universities for a connection. Rather than offering basic internet services, such as those offered by the majority of the 12 RSPs selected, AARNet would look to provide research and education-specific services.
“Researchers have told us they’re becoming more mobile and more inclined to be 24 by 7,” Hancock said. “Therefore they need to be able to work from anywhere, depending on the situation. We want to try and bridge that gap for them.”
Major services often used by universities on-campus, such as massive data transfers and real-time visualisations for medical purposes, could be offered over home connections but in a limited capacity.
Hancock acknowledged the differences in the NBN and AARNet’s own fibre networks. While the latter of which is designed to provide high bandwidth, point-to-point services at symmetric upload and download speeds, the NBN will provide speeds of between 12 and 100 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream, with tiered upload speeds depending on the package selected by users.
AARNet’s involvement, as well as potential business services from the likes of Comscentre, signal the introduction of nice servicing on the NBN. It is expected that the ability to sign up to four or more service providers at each house under the fibre network will enable services like e-health, education and videoconferencing on dedicated connections separate from the basic internet package. The prospect has led some in the industry to forecast the introduction of household brands and utilities as competitors to traditional providers.
NBN Co's head of product development and sales, Jim Hassell, confirmed with Computerworld Australia that discussions were continuing around introducing non-traditional providers. However, he said in the short-term most niche applications would be delivered through existing ISPs.
“With both the service providers and especially different kind of communities... there are all sorts of companies and organisations who are looking at the network and looking to provide specialised services, typically through a service provider around the capability that we’ll deliver,” he said.
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