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Thursday, 25 November 2010 16:10

NBN testbed plans terabit trials


Australia's Academic and Research Network, AARnet, which sees itself as 'almost a testbed for the NBN', is planning a terabit per second communications trial next year and believes it will be able to offer network speeds of up to 500 Gbps to universities and research organisations by 2017.

The trial will be an important element of its five year strategic plan to keep up with university and research network traffic which has risen 70 per cent in the last 12 months.

At a briefing in Sydney today, AARnet chief executive Chris Hancock, said that in the past traffic on the network had grown 30-40 per cent. It was now growing by 70 per cent a year.

While this was partly due to network peering, he said that the volumes of data associated with university research projects was ballooning, putting pressure on the organisation to keep up with, and ahead of, demand.  'We know the whole e-science and research is kicking in because we are the plumbing, and we are seeing the plumbing being used now,' said Mr Hancock.

The advent of more high definition video, extreme data mining, and telehealth would accelerate demand,

Careful to avoid a debate about the merits of the NBN, Mr Hancock said that while the NBN had ambitions to deliver 100 Mbps to the home, AARnet was looking to offer network speeds of 100-500 Gbps by 2017.

He said AARnet's five year strategic plan had been developed, and could be released before the end of the year. The first pillar of that plan was the need to build and operate the network and ensure 'we stay in a position where we have a lot of headroom.'

Not that the headroom is expected to endure - with research programmes such as the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project underway, and researchers sharing data from the Hadron collider - AARnet constantly needed to hike its capacity and speeds according to Mr Hancock.

The second pillar of the five year plan was the creation of a network roadmap, which established the different levels of the network needed to meet the needs of users. As part of that AARnet is currently rolling out fibre rings which will support the Universities of Sydney, NSW, Western Sydney and Macquarie University.  

Mr Hancock said the organisation had also completed a deal with Powerlink to upgrade its network stretching to Far North Queensland to 10 Gbps and that it was going to roll out two 10 Gbps links to Tasmania.

The other two pillars of its five year plan involve developing a range of applications and services for clients. It has already begun this with the roll out of a videoconferencing service earlier this year.

The final pillar involves using the network to act as the glue between universities and communities such as schools, health, TAFE, and cultural groups.

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