NSW schools gear up for broadband

NSW schools and TAFE institutions will soon gain access to a new multi-million dollar high-speed broadband system, following the NSW Government’s announcement that it has awarded five telecommunications companies contracts to start work on the network.

Around 2400 educational institutions across the state, or more than 1.2 million students and 130,000 teachers, will benefit from the new network, designed to provide classrooms with faster and more efficient Internet access.

Contracts to build the $247 million network have been awarded to NEC Australia, SingTel Optus, Soul Pattinson Telecommunications, Telstra and Uecomm. A combination of 15 high bandwidth services will be used, including satellite, wireless, cable modem, Ethernet, Frame Relay and ADSL, with the type and speed of connection for each institution determined by its size and bandwidth needs.

The NSW Government expects to have all 2400 institutions using the new high-speed connection by the end of 2004. Access speeds is expected to vary between 2Mbps and 10Mbps.

Telstra chief of business sales Mike Foster said the fact that five companies had been chosen to deliver the system illustrates the robust nature of the broadband market in NSW.

He added the delivery of broadband to educational institutions state-wide paves the way for a number of community services to benefit from high speed services.

“There are extensive opportunities for improving service delivery in health, or enabling businesses to readily operate from regional locations,” he said.

The new broadband network initiative follows the NSW Government’s launch in December 2000 of an e-learning project, which aims to provide all students and teachers with personalised e-mail accounts and filtered Web access.

The first stage of a pilot program to test the e-learning accounts is now underway at seven primary and secondary schools in Sydney, Bathurst and Narellan, as well as at the TAFE NSW Northern Sydney campus in Crows Nest. E-learning connections will be implemented by a consortium, which includes Unisys, Microsoft, Nortel and Optus. A special reference group consisting of representatives from the NSW Teachers Federation and the Public Service Association has also been established to oversee the project.