NBN Co partners with University of Melbourne and UTS on research and development opportunities

- May 1, 2018 2 MIN READ

NBN Co, the company building out Australia’s broadband network, has announced partnerships with the University of Melbourne and the University of Technology Sydney focused on research and development (R&D).

The “major collaborative relationships”, as the NBN called them, will look at R&D across technologies including robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), programmable networks, artificial intelligence, wireless technologies, and smart cities.

As part of the partnerships, there will also be “additional opportunities” for collaboration, such as post-doctoral research opportunities and student exchanges.

Dr Ray Owen, chief technology officer at NBN, said, “These two new relationships will help NBN Co double down on our strong focus on technology innovation for customer experience and operational excellence.

“With these innovative institutions, we saw a natural fit in helping NBN Co further enable the digital economy. We are committed to supporting the higher-education sector and are excited about scoping out the opportunities for R&D in the coming months.”

NBN stated that the combining of its technical resources with the universities should enhance its ability to “bring new technologies into the market that will help us improve the end-user experience and positively impact people’s lives”.

Meanwhile, giving the universities access to the company’s technical resources and telecoms network operational data will be beneficial for students.

Professor Ian Burnett, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and IT at UTS, said, “This collaborative relationship with nbn significantly grows our engagement in innovative, digital transformation for the whole country.”

The focus on “customer experience and operational excellence,” as Dr Owen put it, is interesting, given the NBN has been plagued by issues and complaints since the roll out began.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman last month released a report stating it had received 22,827 complaints about retail services delivered over the NBN from July to December 2017, with this figure up 204 percent on the same period in 2016.

While NBN Co responded by highlighting that just five percent, or 1052, were sent to the company as complaints for it to resolve, departing CEO Bill Morrow also last month released a position paper acknowledging the limitations of the network, attributing key issues to the Multi Technology Mix (MTM) model implemented by the Coalition Government.

“The consequence has left too many end users, albeit a minority, with an unsatisfactory experience when connecting to the NBN access network, accessing or using the internet, or getting adequate help with a service issue,” he admitted.

Regional Australians in particular have protested poor access and slow speeds, with a coalition of 17 telecommunications and regional-focused interest groups in early 2017 coming together to lobby the government about improving communications in rural, regional, and remote Australia, with poor speeds and low data limits on the Sky Muster satellite service in particular a key issue.

The group called for “fair and equitable access” to the satellite services for those with a genuine need for the service, with access reflecting the residential, educational, and business of rural and regional Australia.

To examine the issues around connectivity in these areas, the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, which comes together every three years, was yesterday announced by Senator Bridget McKenzie, Minister for Regional Communications.

“The review will examine regional telecommunications issues closely and examine how rural Australians can maximise the economic and social benefits that next-generation telecommunication services can provide,” Senator McKenzie said.

Image: Bill Morrow. Source: NBN Co.

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