World class broadband testing centre set to open in Australia

Telecoms equipment vendor Marconi has unveiled a new broadband test centre in Sydney, the first of its kind to be based in Australia and the second broadband research facility launched by the company worldwide.

The Broadband Centre of Excellence, which becomes fully operational in July, will focus on upgrading existing broadband network infrastructure, such as DSL and VDSL, as well as trialling and developing new broadband technologies such as video on demand and fibre to the home.

Marconi Australasia managing director Paul Butcher said the centre’s research and development team will work closely with Marconi’s customers, including Canberra-based broadband provider TransACT, in a bid to adapt its software and hardware broadband solutions to the Australian market.

Butcher said the past few years have seen many communications companies scale back development programs in Australia. "However, Marconi believes this facility will give us a significant advantage over our competitors."

Butcher said broadband is key area for Marconi in the development of its business worldwide. Part of the group’s decision to launch a new centre of excellence in Sydney was the presence of its customer TransACT’s VDSL and fibre network

“TransACT have one of the few true broadband networks in the world. This experience will help us to move forward in our business globally,” he said.

TransACT's network is now accessible to more than 60,000 homes and 5000 businesses in the ACT. It uses Marconi's Deep Fibre Switched Digital Broadband (SDB), and incorporates toll-quality voice, high-speed data and Internet access and a suite of video delivery options including interactive video-on-demand and video IP streaming.

Butcher said the work undertaken at the Australian centre will complement that done at its sister facility in Europe. It will initially create seven full-time jobs, a number expected to increase over the next five years.

Butcher said Marconi has invested around $10 million in the new broadband centre. While the short-term return on investment would come through being able to tailor its software solutions to the Australian market, Butcher said research and development undertaken at the centre would benefit Marconi in the medium term by allowing it to develop new products to market globally.

One of the first areas the centre will focus on is broadband hardware development including fibre to the home, Butcher said.

“We hope to launch a [fibre to the home] product in Australia in Q3 2003,” he said.

Commenting on the development of fibre to the home solutions from its competitors such as Ericsson, Butcher said Marconi’s outlook on the technology differs in that it sees fibre as just one of many interfaces customers require to gain broadband access.

This view is emphasised by the company’s focus on its multi-broadband service product, the Access Hub.

The Marconi Access Hub product is already being used by telcos worldwide to deploy ADSL and VDSL. As well as broadband, the product can deliver voice services and, in the near future, will be capable of providing SHDSL and fibre to the home, Butcher said.

Butcher said the Access Hub product is currently being trialled by multiple telcos in Australia.

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