Sunday, April 04, 2010

Open Source for Submarine Sonar

I am giving a talk on in Adelaide 19 April, tentatively titled "Engaging with Defence on Open Source: Commons for Collins or GPL for Growlers?". So I found of interest the article
Open season: submarine sonars build on commercial imperatives (Janes, March 2010), about the use of commercial off the shelf equipment by US companies. This discusses the U.S. Navy's ARCI Program for upgrading old sonar systems.

This might be applied under the new Australian defence strategic reform initiative. There is already a Collins Submarine Communication Replacement (SEA1439 Phase 5B2). These could make use of low cost, off the shelf computer equipment and open source software.
Ongoing Innovation: Modernization and Incorporation of Technology

The Submarine Force is making significant, rapid improvements in acoustic sensors and processing by using commercial technology implemented through innovative system design and acquisition processes. In real-world exercises and operations, both the TB-29 towed array and Acoustic Rapid COTs Insertion Sonar system (ARCI) demonstrate the ability to restore a remarkable acoustic advantage to U.S. submarines. Use of COTS in ARCI (and in a modified TB-29 array) results in substantially reduced costs with significantly improved processing capability. For example, each ARCI shipset costs about 20% of the price of its predecessor, yet improves processing power by an order of magnitude. A key advantage of ARCI is the Advanced Processor Build (APB), which uses improved processing capability to provide new tactical capabilities and powerful new algorithms that have resulted in much improved towed array detection ranges in testing and actual fleet operations to date. Additionally, the ARCI program improves the commonality/interface among submarine systems while enabling future upgrades to be installed significantly quicker. An aggressive phased installation plan will provide continuously improved versions of ARCI across the entire submarine force by FY06.

Connectivity with other naval and joint forces is essential to effective decision-making, operations, and warfighting with submarines. Consequently, another major priority for the Submarine Force is the modernization of submarine communications capabilities. The submarine High Data Rate (HDR) antenna is the top C4I initiative and is the Navy's first multi-band dish antenna. The HDR antenna will provide worldwide high data rate satellite communications capability and enable access to a variety of systems including the secure, survivable Joint Milstar Satellite Program in the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) band and the Global Broadcast Service (GBS). All SSNs will have HDR antennas by FY04, thereby greatly enhancing SSN connectivity with the Battlegroup. Another development, the Multi-element Buoyant Cable Antenna (MBCA), will enable UHF transmit and receive capability while submerged at speed and depth. These initiatives are key to providing the data throughput necessary for network-centric operations in the 21st century.

From: Submarine Themes: Submarine Innovation, Submarine innovation, including an aggressive long-term technological development and insertion program, promises to dramatically improve submarine capabilities in the 21st century, Submarine Warfare Division, OPNAV Staff, 2001

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Collins Submarine Communication Replacement

The Defence Materiel Organisation has issued a Request for Expression of Interest for replacement of the COLLINS Class Submarine External Communication Systems.
SEA1439 Phase 5B2 Communications and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program
Agency: Defence Materiel Organisation
Category: 43190000 - Communications Devices and Accessories
Close Date & Time: 23-Apr-2010 12:00 pm (ACT Local time) ...
ATM Type: Expression of Interest

The Commonwealth, as represented by the Submarine Combat System SPO, has a requirement to gather information in relation to Export Controls, ITAR requirements, Defence Security and WGS certification from potential suppliers for the replacement of the COLLINS Class Submarine External Communication Systems. ...

From: SEA1439 Phase 5B2 Communications and Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, Defence Materiel Organisation,Department of Defence, 29-Mar-2010

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Friday, March 05, 2010

$20,000 for Student Green ICT Idea

The Telecommunications Society of Australia has announced the completion for the fourth annual Eckermann-TJA Prize. I will be encouraging my Green ICT Students, to enter the competition. This year the competition is for the best paper by university students on sustainable ICT. The top students get $5,000 and their university $10,000.

... Entries will be judged on the extent to which they demonstrate the tangible benefits that an innovative use of broadband communications technology can deliver in supporting a sustainable environment. For the purposes of the competition, broadband is defined as providing an always-on, low-latency network connection supporting data speeds in excess of 250 kbps over fixed or wireless networks. ...
Last years winner was Chris Goodman for "Bunjil - A Social Network for Proactive Monitoring of Tropical Rainforests":
A tool is proposed to help protect tropical rainforests through early detection of deforestation. The solution automates delivery of the latest satellite images into a collaborative geographic social network. This connects local conservation groups in remote tropical regions with a network of volunteers who share the timely analysis of satellite images. Volunteers are prompted to review the latest images of an area from various sources and mark-up any recent changes observed, such as new roads or clearings. The solution captures the coordinates and sends concise reports to the local group to respond to the observed threats. ...

From: Goodman, Chris. 'Bunjil – A social network for proactive monitoring of tropical rainforests'. Telecommunications Journal of Australia. 2010.; Monash University ePress: Victoria, Australia. : 4.1–4.16. DOI:10.2104/tja10004

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Designing the National Broadband Network

The Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) held a National Broadband Network Reference Model Forum in Sydney this morning (there will be another in Melbourne on 12 November 2009). Based on the morning's discussion, my view is that a simpler internet model be used in place of the Communications Alliance model. This will be technically simpler to implement and will also avoid many difficult regulatory issues with telephone and broadcast services. In essence the NBN will be "an internet", which will be part of "the Internet". The NBN can carry many different services using internet protocols, including services which emulate the plain old telephone service (POTS), cable TV and broadcast TV, without being limited to only providing those services or providers.

Paul Brooks, Lead Consultant, NBN Project of Communications Alliance gave a detailed overview of the Communications Alliance High Level Architecture Options for the NBN in detail. His view is that it is likely that the NBN will use a passive optical network for Fibre to The Home (FTTH). This will provide considerable bandwidth to the home, but it is not clear how far this will extend through the network.

While NBN will own and install the connections to the home, there is no architectural distinction between NBN and non-NBN back end networks. The Communications Alliance model operates at level 2 . It is likely that IPv6 will be used or services such as VoIP at the higher layers of the model. Issues to be resolved include how many points should other providers be able to connect at (options range from 5 to 500).

At the home termination, it is not clear how the consumer will connect. Options range from a socket to which any equipment can be connected to an NBN supplied set top box. One issue which I raised early on the the NBN process was the need for operations in disasters during mains power failure. This seems to have been taken up with discussion of who provides the backup batteries.

Stepping back from the details Paul Brooks pointed out a principle should be customer choice. Each service may be connected to different devices from different suppliers ad networks. The example given was a smart electricity meter provided by the energy company, which the householder has little control of but still has to have working over the NBN.

It occurs to me that in all this some points have been lost:

1. Its the Internet: The primary purpose for the NBN is to provide access to the Internet. It is likely the system be implemented using internet protocols. The simplest way to provide Internet access via an internet network is with internet protocols. Therefore the the NBN should be designed as an internet. Much of the Communications Alliance model discussion seems to be about old fashioned connection based network design which is not needed and not relevant for an internet.
2. Layers aren't real: While there s much discussion of Layer 1 and Layer 2, these are abstractions and so of little use for practical decision making. In the discussion it does not seem to be made clear even which multi-layer model is being discussed (the ISO OS
model has seven layers, whereas IP has only five).

Peter Hitchiner, Australian Computer Society – Telecommunications Society of
Australia, gave a more general overview as to what the NBN should do (similar to the ACS talk I gave to ATUG in Canberra). He pointed out that the nature of the NBN service is not clear, in particular is "layer 2" access the preferred industry approach. A major question is will IPTV services be treated equally (a major policy question for the Federal Government).

At this point the forum moved into a discussion to explore some of these issues. This proved very interesting and useful. On the access issue Paul Brooks mentioned that the home access box might have four ports (presumably Ethernet copper cable ports), plus possibly a telephone and a TV port. It seemed that he was envisioned each port would provide a distinct "service" from a separate "service provider". In the subsequent discussion it became clear that the model the Communications Alliance's proposing is to emulate a point to point service over the NBN, on top of an underlying IP network.

Stephen Wright, from Gibson Quai-AAS - Telecommunications Consultants (GQAAS) then talked about the network resilience required. Telstra provides about 99.90% reliability for telephony services (PSTN). Stephen suggested we should aim for 99.95% or higher for the NBN. My view is that it should be relatively simple and inexpensive to achieve this level of service for the NBN for telephony services. This assumes that the NBN is configured to provide different levels of reliability for different services, with emergency services having priority. As an example, the household is likely to want enough bandwidth to call an ambulance in an emergency, and will accept that this should take priority over being able to watch TV. With the NBN configured to provide enough bandwidth to provide TV most of the time, there should be enough capacity to handle lower bandwidth services, such as telephony almost all the time.

The Communications Alliance proposed model is not a good one, is not in the public interest and should not be adopted. Its complexity comes from trying to reproduce the restrictions of the old telecommunications system in order to support old business models. Instead I suggest accepting that the NBN will provide an Internet service. The model then becomes very much simpler, with an unlimited number of service providers able to provide services to the home over one Internet connection. Where a service provider needs a high level of security for their service, for example a telephone, smart meter or a TV set top box, they would need to ensure that the software or hardware they provide to the home has the needed security built in. There is then no need to worry about how many ports to provide or what types. Only one port is needed which can support all the services required.

This would be similar to the electrical sockets provided in the home. These are all worried in parallel and provide the same service. The householder can purchase their own devices to plug in. The householder can also purchase multiple adaptors to plug in. If the householder wants to plug in a refrigerator from a particular supplier, they do not need a special power point installed which only provides one brand of electricity.

The NBN will likely replace the current telephone, broadcast TV and cable TV services. I suggest replacements for these services be done in a way which does not limit the availability of new services. This would be a change in the previous government practice which has been to protect encumbent providers from competition from new services. As an example, the conversion to digital TV in Australia was designed so that the existing analog TV stations retained their oligopoly, even though the new digital technology di not require this.

There is a case for providing telephony and TV as part of the basic NBN service, but architecturally these can be simply services on top of the Internet. In this way the household will not be locked into a new monopoly unnecessarily. As an example, the householder would be able to pay a service provider to provide an ordinary telephone POTS type service from an Australian telecommunications provider. But the householder should be able to use the same NBN equipment to make free Internet calls and to sign up with several other telephone providers, including companies located anywhere in the world, if they wish.

Similarly, the house holder could use the NBN to watch Australian free to air TV and cable TV. However, the householder should be able to also access any other TV-like service available over the Internet from anywhere in the world. The fact that Foxtel might wish to provide a restricted pay TV service using NBN, should not stop other provision of TV like services for free by others.

The issues of telephony on the NBN are not technically complex, compared to the regulatory and public policy issues. TV type services over the NBN are slightly more complex technically, but are dwarfed by the complexity of the public policy issues. There is not sufficient time to work through all of the sectional interests involved in time to implement the NBN. With the current timetable, Australian will still not have transitioned completely from analogue to digital before it will be time to start replacing the digital TV broadcast service with the NBN.

I suggest the Australian Government take the opportunity to short circuit the process by setting some simple goals for the NBN in delivering services over an internet and then let the NBN company get on with the implementation. The NBN is not building a telephone network, nor a pay TV network, it is building a network which can be used for carrying such services.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ethernet in the First Mile

The Primus presentation to the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" was a little jargon filled, with Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) and "self healing" networks. There is good competition in the core and distribution networks (fibre connections between city areas). 1 Gbps links are now common for large corporate users. Primus has built its own exchanges, separate from Telstra. In some cases these exchanges are in customer premises.

There is poor competition for the access network to residential consumers. Old copper cable is limiting access. The future (according to Primus) is Passive Optical Network (PON). This is suitable for both residential and business use.

One driver for bandwidth is tele-presence with very high definition video. This is currently for corporates but could extend into the home.

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ACCC View of Australian 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package

The ACCC representative was not available for the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package". ACCC believes the best way to deliver broadband with a competitive market. The ACCC view is that competition in the fixed line voice services has not fully developed (particularly as compared to mobile services). In the case of mobile services the competitors have more control over delivery as they have their won networks (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone). In the case of fixed line, there is vertical integration in access and service, plus some horizontal integration with HFC ad subscription services. The ACCC sees these structural issues as hindering competition. Competition is "patchy" even in urban areas. Fixed line infrastructure includes DSLAM (540 exchanges), HFC networks (not expanding, limited access but improving service) and customer access network. As of June 2009, Tesltra was providing 70% of DSL services.

The ACCC's view is that the regulatory framework depends on market power and structural arrangements. The incumbent (Tesltra) is highly vertically and horizontally integrated. Current measures allow extent of integration to be reported but not change it. Reforms will address integration. Structural separation is required for vertical separation. Requiring Tesltra to divest HFC network might allow a new competitor. Divesting Foxtel could increase competition in media markets.

There are details of the ACCC's views in their "Submission to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy". The ACCC submission is nothing if not comprehensive, being 375 pages long (1.75 Mbytes). Unfortunately as with many such government reports it is poorly formatted and very hard to read.

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Australian 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package

Greeting from NICTA in Canberra, where the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) is hosting "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package". I talked on "Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package" for the ACS. Holly Raiche, Executive Director of the Internet Society of Australia (ISOC-AU) is currently speaking about the legislation.

One issue I can see coming up is the definition of a "fixed line": is a wireless service which sits in the home providing phone, Internet and, perhaps TV, a "fined line"? Holly is also asking what the Universal Service Obligation should be in a broadband environment. The draft legislation allows for the Standard Telephone Service (STS) to be a mobile (wireless) or VoIP service, as an alternative to a fixed line. This raises some safety issues as to if a sufficiently reliable service will be provided. The legislation will place obligations on the wholesale carriers to provide service, so the retailers don't just get the blame for all the problems.

The forum will also be at other cities:

This will be followed by Professor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts with a free talk on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" at the same venue, 5:30PM.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package

I will be talking on "Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package" at the ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA in Canberra, 14 October 2009.

This will be followed by Professor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts with a free talk on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" at the same venue, 5:30PM.

Perspectives on the Telecommunications Reform Package

ACS Telecommunication Society of Australia (ACS-TSA)

For the ATUG Focus Forum, Canberra, 14 October 2009

NBN Initiative

  • Platform and enabler for participation in the digital economy
  • Visionary: addressing Australia's inadequate investment in BB infrastructure
  • Also addresses inadequate regulation of market power in wholesale and retail markets
  • But what the NBN will deliver is not clear.

The high level issues

  • What will be the NBN's wholesale service?
  • What will be its guaranteed QoS?
  • NBN and national wholesale pricing?
  • Will the NBN serve IPTV providers with network neutrality?
  • How can transparency be achieved in the NBN's business practices?
  • Should an Industry Ombudsman be created for NBN retail performance issues?
  • What transitional arrangements and competitive protections?
  • Will competitors to the NBN really be permitted or even safeguarded?

What will be the NBN's wholesale service?

At least three components:

  • Implementation service
  • Transmission capability: point-to-point with guaranteed QoS re performance: bandwidth, outages etc
  • Maintenance service

What will be the guaranteed QoS?

Essential for the NBN to offer minimum guaranteed service levels for all service aspects within its (implementation, transmission, maintenance) to provide a basis on which retail service providers can offer QoS to their end customers, especially business customers.

  • Can the NBN offer multiple SLAs? Can it actually deliver a range of SLAs?
  • The realities of service bottlenecks in international links can be allowed for in service agreements

NBN and national wholesale pricing?

  • Costs vary with geography & density
    • Sparse population - high 'backhaul' costs
    • Low population densities
  • Elements of the solution
    • Multiple platforms : FTTP for 90%, advanced wireless and satellite for 10%
    • Multiple POIs
    • Backhaul 'network'
    • Cross subsidy within NBN

Will the NBN offer network neutrality?

Network Neutrality (NN): no differentiation by the NBN in terms of price or performance by content source:

  • Essential for competition
  • Allows competition in IPTV services
  • Requires a QoS supporting IPTV

Transparency in the NBN business?

NBN Co needs a transparent policy decision process:

  • Publishing all Board decisions after each meeting (ICANN model)
  • Industry Ombudsman

Is a new industry Ombudsman needed?

Transitional arrangements and protections

  • What transitional arrangements and competitive protections will apply for service providers using current networks?

Other Perspectives

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Monday, October 12, 2009

New Ways of Working with the NBN

Professor Reg CouttsProfessor Reg Coutts, a member of the Government’s Broadband Panel of Experts will give a free talk on "The National Broadband Network: New Ways of Working" at NICTA in Canberra, 5:30PM, 14 October 2009. This follows the "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA the same day, where I will be speaking. The National Broadband Network has implications for the telecommunications and broadcasting industry and changes will be needed if the community is to get an economic and social return on this large investment.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Telecommunications Regulatory Reform

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, announced reforms to Australian telecommunications law on 16 September 2009. I will be speaking about these at an ATUG "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA in Canberra on 14 October. The reforms are in the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009.

For such an important reform the amount of legislation is relatively small (144 pages). However, extensive detailed changes are proposed to complex telecommunication legislation, and this is likely to keep lawyers and court busy for decades. There are 98 pages of Explanatory Memorandum and there are likely to be hundreds of pages of regulations.

As an example of the difficulties, the legislation defines a "VOIP Service" in terms of "the internet protocol" without defining what "the internet protocol" is. This definition could cover all telephone calls, or none, depending on how a court interprets and could depend on something as small as if "internet" is written with a lower case or upper case "I". The legislation could be ruled invalid, as there is no such thing as "the internet protocol", it is "the Internet protocol" or "an internet protocol". A particular VoIP service may not use the same protocol as other voice services, or all phone calls might be considered VoIP, as they will all transit a network using IP at some point.

The package is mostly about forcing a functional separation of Telstra, between its wholesale and retail parts. There is a detailed definition of what such a separation requires, in the draft legislation, defining terms such as functional, functional separation principles, functional separation requirements determination, regulated service, retail business unit, supply, and a wholesale/network business unit. Essentially the legislation will give the Minister the power to say how this is done, with the ACCC and Telstra to agree the details and the courts deciding in the absence of an agreement.

What the reforms do not seem to address are wider issues of the convergence of telecommunications with broadcasting and the effects on telephony, radio and TV broadcasting industries and pay TV. What will therefore be needed is another and more extensive set of reforms for broadcasting reform to match the telecommunications reform.

The main legislation (not counting explanatory memoranda) is 144 pages (300 kbytes of PDF). There are additional document and will also need to extensive regulations, to cover the details.

Some of the Acts changed include the Radiocommunications Act 1992, Telecommunications Act 1997, Trade Practices Act 1974, Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999. It introduces terms, such as:

hybrid fibre-coaxial network means a telecommunications network:

(a) that is for use for the transmission of any broadcasting service; and

(b) that is also capable of being used to supply an internet carriage service; and

(c) the line component of which consists of optical fibre to connecting nodes, supplemented by coaxial cable connections from the nodes to the premises of end-users. ...

internet carriage service means a carriage service that enables end-users to access the internet. ...

(14) In this section:

fixed-line carriage service means a carriage service that is supplied using a line to premises occupied or used by an end-user. ...

577H Designated part of the spectrum

(1) For the purposes of this Act, each of the following parts of the spectrum is a designated part of the spectrum:

(a) frequencies higher than 520 MHz, up to and including 820 MHz;

(b) frequencies higher than 2.5 GHz, up to and including 2.69 GHz. ...

telecommunications market has the same meaning as in Part XIB of the Trade Practices Act 1974 ...

For the purposes of this Part, a declared network service is a service specified in a legislative instrument made by the Minister for the purposes of this clause. ...

The functional separation principles are as follows:

(a) the principle that there should be equivalence in relation to the supply by Telstra of regulated services to:

(i) Telstra's wholesale customers; and

(ii) Telstra's retail business units; ...

payphone carriage service means a carriage service supplied by means of a payphone. ...

VOIP service means a carriage service that enables a voice call to originate on customer equipment by means of the internet protocol. ...


Explanatory Memorandum

Second Reading Speech

From the explanatory memoranda:


The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 (the Bill) introduces a package of legislative reforms aimed at enhancing competitive outcomes in the Australian telecommunications industry and strengthening consumer safeguards.

The package has three primary parts: addressing Telstra’s vertical and horizontal integration; streamlining the access and anti-competitive conduct regimes; and strengthening consumer safeguard measures such as the Universal Service Obligation (USO), the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) and priority assistance.

The Bill contains amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Tel Act), Parts XIB and XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA), the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Radcom Act) and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (the Consumer Protection Act). The Bill also makes consequential amendments to the National Transmission Network Sale Act 1998 (NTN Sale Act).

Addressing the current structure of the telecommunications sector

The Australian telecommunications market is characterised by a very strong and highly integrated incumbent, Telstra. Telstra is one of the most integrated telecommunications companies in the world owning the only copper network connecting almost every house, the largest cable and mobile networks, and a 50 per cent stake in Foxtel, Australia’s largest subscription television provider.

Partly because of this integration, it has been able to maintain a dominant position in virtually all aspects of the market, despite more than 10 years of open competition. It is the Government’s view that Telstra’s high level of integration has hindered the development of effective competition in the sector.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will deliver a wholesale-only, open access telecommunications market structure, transforming the competitive dynamics in the Australian telecommunications industry.

However, during the rollout of the NBN, the existing regulatory regime will remain important for delivering competitive outcomes in the interests of Australian consumers, businesses and the economy more broadly.

Consistent with the market structure that will be delivered through the NBN, Part 1 of Schedule 1 of this Bill inserts a new Part 33 in the Tel Act which provides provisions for Telstra to voluntarily structurally separate.

Structural separation may, but does not need to, involve the creation of a new company by Telstra and the transfer of its fixed-line assets to that new company. Alternatively it may involve Telstra progressively migrating its fixed-line traffic to the NBN over an agreed period of time and under set regulatory arrangements, and sell or cease to use its fixed-line assets on an agreed basis. This approach will ultimately lead to a national outcome where there is a wholesale-only network not controlled by any retail company—in other words, full structural separation in time. Such a negotiated outcome would be consistent with the wholesale-only, open access market structure to be delivered through the National Broadband Network.

However, if Telstra does not voluntarily implement structural separation, this Bill will require the functional separation of Telstra. Functional separation is a regulatory tool that has been used successfully in other countries such as the UK and New Zealand and is being considered by the European Commission, to address the underlying incentives that fixed-line incumbents have to favour their own retail businesses.

This Bill amends the Tel Act to require that Telstra must:

  • conduct its network operations and wholesale functions at arm’s length from the rest of Telstra;

  • provide the same information and access to regulated services on equivalent price and non-price terms to its retail business and non-Telstra wholesale customers; and

  • put in place and maintain strong internal governance structures that provide transparency for the regulator and access seekers that equivalence arrangements are effective.

These provisions are contained in a new Part 9 of Schedule 1 to the Tel Act, to be inserted by Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill.

As part of the functional separation framework, Telstra will be required to establish and maintain a single wholesale/network unit, separate from its retail business units, and a committee to be known as the Oversight and Equivalence Board.

Telstra will be required to operate its network and wholesale functions at arm’s-length from the rest of Telstra. The Oversight and Equivalence Board will report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Telstra’s board of directors about Telstra’s compliance with its functional separation obligations.

Telstra’s level of horizontal integration across the different delivery platforms—copper, cable and mobile—is in contrast to many countries where there are restrictions on incumbents owning both cable and traditional fixed-line telephone networks. Unlike Australia, in a range of countries the fixed-line incumbent does not also own the largest mobile carrier as measured by market share. Telstra’s horizontal integration has significantly contributed to Telstra’s ongoing dominance in the Australian telecommunications market.

The Government intends to correct this unique market structure, by introducing a set of measures designed to promote competition across the various telecommunications platforms while providing Telstra with the flexibility to choose its future path.

The proposed amendments to the Radcom Act and the new Part 10 of Schedule 1 to the Tel Act (in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill) will prevent Telstra from acquiring specified bands of spectrum, which could be used for advanced wireless broadband services unless it structurally separates, divests its hybrid fibre coaxial cable network and its interests in Foxtel. The legislation provides scope for the Minister to remove the requirements around the cable network and Foxtel if he is satisfied that Telstra’s structural separation undertaking is sufficient to address concerns about the degree of Telstra’s power in telecommunications markets. ...

From: Competition and Consumer Safeguards Bill - Explanatory Memorandum, First reading, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2009

From the proposed act:
1 Short title 4
2 Commencement 4
3 Schedule(s) 6
Schedule 1—Amendments 7
Part 1—Amendments relating to Telstra 7
Division 1—Amendments commencing on the day after this Act receives the Royal Assent 7
Radiocommunications Act 1992 7
Telecommunications Act 1997 8
Trade Practices Act 1974 39
Division 2—Amendments commencing immediately after a final functional separation undertaking comes into force 41
Telecommunications Act 1997 41
Trade Practices Act 1974 44
Division 3—Amendments commencing immediately after an undertaking about structural separation comes into force 45
Telecommunications Act 1997 45
Trade Practices Act 1974 46
Part 2—Telecommunications access regime 47
Division 1—Amendments 47
National Transmission Network Sale Act 1998 47
Telecommunications Act 1997 47
Trade Practices Act 1974 52
Division 2—Transitional provisions 102
Part 3—Anti‑competitive conduct 112
Division 1—Amendments 112
Trade Practices Act 1974 112
Division 2—Application 112
Part 4—Universal service regime 113
Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 113
Part 5—Customer service guarantee 128
Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 128
Part 6—Priority assistance 133
Telecommunications Act 1997 133
Part 7—Infringement notices etc. 136
Division 1—Amendments 136
Telecommunications Act 1997 136
Division 2—Application 143
Part 8—Civil penalty provisions 144
Telecommunications Act 1997 144

From: Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, First reading, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2009

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Australian Telecommunications Reform

The Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) is hosting "Focus Forum on 2009 Telecommunications Reform Package" at NICTA in Canberra on 14 October. I will be speaking for the Australian Computer Society on what the Australian Government and industry should be doing. The National Broadband Network has implications for the telecommunications and broadcasting industry and changes will be needed if the community is to get an economic and social return on this large investment.

In 2007 I talked in Tasmania about "Demystifying Broadband options for Tasmania". This cast doubt on the feasibility of the then national government's broadband strategy. That strategy was replaced by the new government with its NBN strategy. A few weeks ago I returned to Tasmania and asked what the new network could be used for in "Green Broadband Jobs". The ACS does it bit by exporting green education online from Tasmania.

One element missing from the national telecommunications strategy is access to affordable wireless data networks. There is a profound change happening now in the way people use the Internet. It is changing from a fixed to wireless service and low cost smart phones and netbooks become available. This will change how education, government and business is done. This change will become apparent during 2010. Telcos charging monopoly prices to artificiality restrict access to wireless Internet would impede internationally in this new part of the economy.

The forum will also be at other cities:
ATUG 2009 Focus Forum - Perspectives on the Telecom Reforms Package


14th October

NICTA Research Laboratory, 7 London Circuit, Canberra

12.30 Light Lunch
1.00pm – 1.15pm Welcome – Forum Chair, David Swift, ATUG Chairman
1.15pm – 1.45pm Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy Perspective
1.45 pm – 2.15am Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Speaker
2.15 pm– 2.45 pm Holly Raiche – Executive Director, Internet Society of Australia
2.45pm – 3.30pm Afternoon Tea
3.30pm-4.00 pm Gibson Quai AAS Speaker
4.00pm – 4.30pm Ravi Bhatia – CEO Primus Telecom
4.30pm – 5pm Forum Wrap up and Conclusion

Cost: ATUG Members and Guests $100.00 incl. GST
Non Member $175.00 incl. GST

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Broadband for disabilities $20,000 prize

The Australian Computer Society is offering AU$20,000 in prize money for innovative use of telecommunications technology to assist individuals with a disability. Entries are invited from around the world for papers in the May 2010 issue of the ACS Telecommunications Journal of Australia. The Prize commemorates the disability advocate Christopher Newell.

Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Children Services and Disabilities, and Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in Canberra are launching the "Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize" in Canberra this morning at about 10am.

The Telecommunications Society of Australia, a Special Interest Group of ACS, is delighted to announce the launching of the inaugural Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize by the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Children Services and Disabilities, and Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in Canberra on 24 June 2009.
The Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize, generously sponsored in 2009/10 by Telstra, will be awarded to the author(s) of the best, original paper offered to TJA (Telecommunications Journal of Australia) by a deadline of 15 January 2010, that demonstrates the tangible benefits that an innovative use of broadband or other telecommunications technology can provide in assisting individuals with disabilities.
This is a truly global competition; entries are invited from around the world. The best entries, including the winning paper or papers, will be published in the May 2010 issue of TJA.

The Judging Panel will be chaired by TJA’s Managing Editor, Professor Peter Gerrand (University of Melbourne), and includes Professor Gerard Goggin (University of Sydney) and Robert Morsillo, Telstra’s Group Manager for Consumer Affairs. Panel members do not vote or provide ratings on entries in which they have any conflict of interest.

The TSA applauds the excellent corporate citizenship of Telstra in sponsoring the inaugural Christopher Newell Prize. The Prize commemorates the late Reverend Canon Doctor Christopher Newell AM, 1964-2008, who was an extraordinary advocate for people with disability in Australia.

For further details on the Rules of the Prize Competition, see here.

From: The new AU$20,000 Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize Competition, ACS, 2009

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lack of an Australian emergency warning systems risking lives and wasting money

The Attorney-General and the Minister for Broadband have announced legislation to enable states to implement telephone-based emergency warning systems. This ad-hoc arrangement is no substitute for a nationally coordinated system. The decision by the federal government not to build a national system risks lives and wastes resources. Any ICT professional involved in policy, planning or implementation of such systems needs to consider if they are acting ethically and lawfully. The "Nuremberg Defense" has limited applicability to professionals, who are required to act in the public interest, regardless of the instructions they are given by their superiors.

Joint Media Release

The Hon Robert McClelland MP

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy

23 February 2009


The Rudd Government will today introduce into Parliament amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997 to enable access to the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) for telephone-based emergency warning systems established by the States and Territories.

Access to the IPND will be provided through a new secure database which provides real-time access to up-to-date telephone numbers while protecting the identity of individuals. The Government will provide $11.3 million for this purpose. A request for tender to build the database will be issued shortly.

Telephone-based emergency warning systems have been the subject of discussions between the Commonwealth, States and Territories since 2004. Until 2008, no agreement was reached.

In 2008, the Rudd Government placed the issue on the COAG agenda. COAG agreed it was a priority and commissioned the work necessary to reach agreement by the end of 2008. This work was completed, and agreement was achieved in November 2008.

This agreement was necessary to address important concerns such as ensuring telephone-based emergency warning systems do not overload and disable the telecommunications network (including access to the 000 emergency hotline) and the security of individuals’ personal information.

In accordance with the agreement, the Government immediately commenced drafting legislation to authorise access to the IPND. The necessary legislation and database the Government is putting in place will enable the States and Territories to access the data needed to develop their own warning systems as soon as possible.

The historical advice to the Commonwealth has been that any plan to allow the States and Territories access to the IPND as part of any emergency warning system would be best secured by a legislative amendment. Nevertheless, in light of the bushfire emergency in Victoria the Government has also sought advice from the Solicitor-General on an interim measure to allow access.

Based on this advice, the Government will today also make a regulation under the Telecommunications Act 1997 enabling interim access to the IPND.

This will enable immediate access to the IPND by individual States and Territories who wish to implement a more limited system as soon as possible. It should be emphasized that this is not a long-term solution and not a substitute for amendments to the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the planned future access arrangements for the IPND.

Under the COAG agreement, States and Territories retain autonomy about the warning systems they choose to implement.

The Commonwealth has today written to the States and Territories advising that if they are able to agree to a national system at the next possible COAG meeting the Commonwealth will make a further financial contribution to establish such a system, to be owned and operated by the States and Territories.

Whether or not a national system is established, there remain technological challenges to overcome to enable any system to communicate with all telephones in a threatened area. Advice to the Government is that current technology is limited to communicating with fixed landlines, and mobile telephones on the basis of billing address only (rather than the location of the handset). This can mean individuals in a threatened area do not receive a warning on their phones, and individuals outside a threatened area receive irrelevant warnings.

To help address this gap, at the next COAG meeting the Commonwealth will offer the States and Territories financial assistance for them to conduct collaborative research on the viability of a location-based emergency warning system.

It should also be remembered that telephone-based emergency warning systems are only a supplement to, and not a replacement for, the range of measures currently used to warn the public of emergencies, such as television and radio, public address systems, doorknocking, sirens, signage and the internet.

The steps announced by the Rudd Government today will help make telephone-based emergency warning systems one part of Australia’s disaster response capability. ...

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Vodafone software problems risk public safety

Vodafone changed to a new billing system in 2007 and there appear to be ongoing problems with the system. When I was unable to see any of the 2008 billing details for my Vodafone mobile phone, with their online system, I complained to the Telecommunications Ombudsman.

Vodafone then promptly contacted me and arranged to send paper copies of the missing bills and call details (which they did). Also they refunded some items on the bill which I queried.

However, the Vodafone online system is still not working properly. I can see my latest bill, but If I attempt to look at Account Summary or Call Details I get: "An error has occurred. Sorry for the inconvenience - There has been a communication problem and your request has not been processed. Please try again later.".

This appears to be a systemic problem, not within the Telecommunication Ombudsman's power to address. Vodafone could simply respond to each complaint by sending a paper copy and offering a partial refund, without fixing the system.

If there is a problem with Vodafone's billing system, there is a risk of financial fraud from misuse of the system. If the problems extend to the telecommunications system Vodafone provides, the safety of the public is at risk. As Vodafone's system is interconnected nationally and internationally, it places the entire telecommunications system at risk of fraud, crime and terrorism.

The ACMA needs to check if Vodafone is complying with its license conditions.

A well documented example of how a problem with a poorly maintained Vodafone system has implications for terrorism is detailed in "The Athens Affair" (by Vassilis Prevelakis and Diomidis Spinellis, IEEE Spectrum, July 2007). In this instance more than 100 senior people, who were customers of Vodafone Greece, had their mobile phones bugged due to poor system maintenance. Those bugged included the Prime Minister, the ministers of national defense, foreign affairs and justice, plus senior staff of the ministries of National Defense, Public Order, Merchant Marine, Foreign Affairs, Hellenic Navy general staff and an employee at the United States Embassy.

Hackers attached the Vodafone switches and exploited the system's facility designed for legal phone taps, modifying the system software. The attack was eventually discovered when it interfered with the delivery of text messages. Why the software change was not discovered in routine system maintenance has not been publicly revealed. Investigators were hampered by Vodafone deleting the system logs and by one of the engineers being found dead in an apparent suicide.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Building a resilient Australian disaster management system

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has released the report Taking a punch: Building a more resilient Australia. It argues that recent disaster planning has overemphasized terrorist attacks, which are unlikely and more effort should be devoted to natural disasters, which occur frequently in Australia. They suggest the community needs to be resilient to deal with disaster themselves, rather than assuming that if the call 000 someone will come to help.

The authors also point out that VOIP communications may make Australia more vulnerable:
VOIP (voice over internet protocols) technology is becoming of much greater importance so there will be challenges in reaching those who rely on internet access for all communications.
From: Strategic Insights 39 - Taking a punch: Building a more resilient Australia, David Templeman and Anthony Bergin, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 7 May 2008
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has issued a Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia. It is likely that consumers and businesses will replace their wired phone services with VOIP over this new network. Most VOIP services are currently not designed for emergency communications, nor to operate during a mains power failure.

The RFP asks about provision of battery backup of the equipment and mentions emergency calls, but this is priority 16 out of 18. This needs to be treated as a higher priority. ICT can also improve on the previous analog telecommunications system to provide better facilities for emergency warnings and disaster recovery, such as broadcast text messages for Tsunami warning direct to the public's mobile phones and web based disaster recovery software which treats the community has participants, not just as victims.
...Commonwealth's objectives for the NBN... 16 is consistent with national security, e-security and e-safety policy objectives including compliance with laws relating to law enforcement assistance and emergency call services; ...
From: Request for Proposals to Roll-out and Operate a National Broadband Network for Australia, ATM ID DCON/08/18, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, 11-Apr-2008
See also:

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Australian Government Transition to IPv6

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has released an eight page "Strategy for the Transition to IPv6 for Australian Government agencies". That may seem a short response to a large technical issue, but AARNET's is even briefer. Here is a simplified format of the AGIMO strategy:

Australian Government

Department of Finance and Deregulation

A Strategy for the Transition to IPv6 for Australian Government agencies

‘Building Capacity for Future Innovation’

Paper prepared for General Distribution
AGIMO, October 2007
BackgroundIn December 2006, the Australian Government's Chief Information Officer Committee (CIOC) tasked the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) with the development of a whole-of-government strategy for a transition to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

To inform the development of the strategy, AGIMO formed an IPv6 Reference Group, consisting of representatives of the Australian Government’s Chief Information Officer Committee (CIOC). The IPv6 Reference Group has subsequently met monthly to discuss transition issues and finalise this report.

The strategy was endorsed by the CIOC in December 2007 and the IPv6 Reference Group was replaced by a Community of Expertise (CoE). The CoE acts as a central point for policy advice and information regarding whole-of-government issues in the transition to an IPv6 environment. In particular, it considers issues around the whole-of-government IPv6 address space, security of networks and systems, skills, and training.

The CoE will meet regularly to ensure that transition activities are undertaken in a timely manner.

Why Plan for the transition to IPv6 Now?

While there are no critical business drivers that are forcing the Australian Government to move to IPv6 immediately, the development of ubiquitous IP networks (allowing for the rapid uptake of IP telephony and digital wireless networks), the shift to

IP-based communications and the adoption of e-business strategies across numerous other technologies are all putting pressure on the available IPv4 address space. Organisations use Network Address Translation (NAT) and other interim measures to overcome IPv4 address space limitations, but over time these organisations will be limited in their ability to respond to address space pressures and to take advantage of capabilities offered by IPv6.

IPv6 was developed to increase the amount of available IP address space. By managing the IPv6 transition process early and collectively, Australian Government

agencies will be able to better align and synchronise transition programmes, optimise procurement, manage programme and technical risks and manage vulnerabilities more deliberately. By ensuring that agencies have a target date for transition and have properly planned, organised and resourced their transition programmes, the Australian Government can promote a more disciplined and economical transition across the whole-of-government environment.

IPv6 has several well-known and understood benefits besides the increased address space. These include increased end-to-end security of systems and automated address allocation for internet connected devices.

There are several reasons for starting the planning process now and thereby not leaving it until industry and other external pressures build and introduce additional risks and costs.

In an Australian Government context, some of these reasons are:

  1. The risk that unplanned and uncontrolled implementation of IPv6 equipment into government networks could result in failures and loss of service delivery capability.
  2. The risk that the skills shortage in the ICT arena and in particular, the IPv6 field becomes so great that the government will not be able to compete with the private sector for IPv6 skilled technical and administrative staff.
  3. The opportunities for increased service delivery, particularly in the health, environment and transport industries, that IPv6 will allow with its ability to have multiple sensor/tracking devices in a variety of fields.
  4. The fact that many of our neighbours, including the US, Japan, Korea and many European nations are all moving down this path (at various speeds). The US has mandated the transition, and both Japan and Korea see the implementation of IPv6 as a way of relieving staffing and skills shortages by using robotics and remote sensors to achieve results that previously would have required manual procedures.
  5. The risk that the cost of moving to IPv6 when industry and suppliers are driving the market will be significantly greater than if the planning and transition stages are undertaken in an environment of controlled progress.

IPv6 Transition Timing

The transition from the present IPv4 environment to a dual capability IPv4/IPv6 environment, and ultimately to a wholly IPv6 environment, is expected to take at least five-eight years. The transition to IPv6 will involve three stages:

  • Preparation;
  • Transition; and
  • Implementation.

Ultimately, IPv6 capability will be available in all new equipment and once an agency’s network backbone equipment is wholly IPv6 capable, the agency can decide when it will turn on the IPv6 capability.

Industry intends to supply dual capable IPv4/IPv6 equipment for the foreseeable future, while the IPv6 set of standards will become dominant within the next three-five years. It is anticipated that agencies will need to manage IPv4 network traffic for at least the next 15-20 years.

Preparation Stage

Agencies will need to plan, conduct and manage the following activities when they are transitioning to IPv6. The activities that need to be undertaken are:

  • Stocktake of equipment

AGIMO recommends that agencies aim to complete the process by December 2009.


Agencies’ technical and ICT administrative staff will need to be trained in IPv6. The training will need to be ongoing, systematic, and scalable for each agency’s requirements.

Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA)

Each agency will need to undertake an agency-specific TRA. Agencies need to assess the threat-related updates and other security related guidance that will need to be factored into any TRA and/or security planning.

Procurement Policy

Agencies will need to ensure that individual agency procurement policies are updated to require that all ICT procurements consider whether any hardware or software solution should be IPv6 capable.

Dual Capability Networks (Dual-Stacking)

Due to the requirement for agencies to cater for both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic into the foreseeable future, it is anticipated that agencies will need to manage dual-capable networks for at least the next 15-20 years.


Agencies will need to undertake a stocktake of their software and applications (commercially and internally developed) to ascertain which will need to be upgraded to be IPv6 capable, those that will be replaced with IPv6 capable tools and those that will remain as legacy IPv4 software or applications.

Whole-of-Government Address Space Allocation

AGIMO is investigating the advantages of the Australian Government seeking a whole-of-government allocation of a contiguous IPv6 address space.

Promoting Awareness of the Transition Strategy

The IPv6 CoE will support AGIMO in building IPv6 awareness across government and industry, and promoting the government’s transition strategy and its schedule.

Transition Stage

The Transition stage begins when an agency commences the replacement of older IPv4-only systems with dual capable IPv4/IPv6 hardware and/or software. It will end when agencies have replaced all of the IPv4 only capable equipment (bar the legacy equipment that has been consciously retained) with dual-capable equipment.

Each agency will be responsible for its individual transition plan. The CoE will be available to assist with technical or logistical matters under the auspices of the CIOC.

The transitioning stage to IPv6 will present several challenges to Australian Government agencies. These will include:

Updated Stocktake

The installation of IPv6 capable equipment into their networks (as older IPv4 only equipment is replaced with IPv4/IPv6 capable equipment) will require agencies to update their initial stocktake.

Ongoing training of technical and ICT administrative personnel in the new protocol will be required to enable agencies to maintain dual IPv4 and IPv6 environments for an extended period of time.


Agencies will need to take into account any security-related guidance and/or updates provided. Agency TRAs should be managed to accommodate this advice and any resultant threats from new infrastructure added to the network.


Agencies will need to incorporate IPv6 features into business cases for applications to identify new and better ways of meeting outcomes and porting existing applications to IPv6 capability, or ensuring applications are protocol neutral.

Internet Service Providers

Agencies will need to discuss with their ISP the effect of the transition to IPv6 and ascertain how their ISP is going to cope with the on-going requirement to have both IPv4 and IPv6 capable equipment on the network.


Implementing agreed standards required by the use of IPv6.

Implementation Stage

At the conclusion of this stage, agencies will be completely IPv6 capable (even though their systems may be dual capable).

Timetable and Stage Deliverables

In order to complete a whole-of-government IPv6 implementation and have the transition in line with the expected timeframes of other governments and industry, AGIMO suggests the following target periods for each phase:

IPv6 Transition - Proposed Timetable:



Preparation Jan 2008-Dec 2009 Stocktake of equipment (hardware)

Investigate and recommend whole-of-government approach to IPv6 address space

CoE to undertake Transition awareness programme.

Stocktake of equipment (software & applications)

Training needs analysis

Threat & risk assessment

Dual capable equipment to be considered with solely IPv4 equipment starting to be replaced

Procurement policy updated

Transition Jan 2010-Dec 2012Ongoing stocktake of equipment (hardware)

Ongoing stocktake of equipment (software & applications)

Relevant Training courses implemented

Review of Infosec Registered Assessor Program (I-RAP) assessments. (if required)

Implementation Jan 2013-Dec 2015Ipv6 networks in place (dual capable)

IPv6 capable hardware in place

IPv6 applications in use

ICT technical/admin staff continuing to train on IPv4/IPv6 systems

Achieving the 2015 target is more important than meeting the interim steps, though the interim steps are designed to allow agencies to control the transition with minimum disruption to ongoing business streams. The timeframes are indicative and reflect a risk managed approach. Agencies may move to Transition or Implementation before the identified dates.


AGIMO proposes that to enable an effective transition to IPv6, it will build on the work performed by the whole-of-government working/implementation group (the IPv6 Reference Group) to help ensure interoperability of applications and operating systems, efficient planning for the introduction of IPv6, and to ensure that agencies can tap into a bank of expertise. The IPv6 Reference Group will become the core of a CoE that will be facilitated by AGIMO. It will report to the CIOC on an annual basis, or more frequently should the need arise.

Whole-of-Government Issues

Where issues are common across agencies and/or jurisdictions, AGIMO will act as the central reporting agency so that all agencies and the CIOC is kept up-to-date on agency progress towards all government agencies being IPv6 capable in the recommended timeframes.

The Market place

To inform the availability of its products and services, industry is looking for some lead from government in regard to the likely timing of IPv6 transition. Advice from the major ICT industry companies is that they are ready to support government agencies with the supply of IPv6 capable equipment shortly after agencies identify a need for it.

AGIMO will communicate the Transition strategy through relevant forums to inform industry and other interested parties of the government’s approach.

The implementation issues addressed in this paper have been informed by the IPv6 Transition Guidance issued by the US Federal CIO Council Architecture and Infrastructure Committee in February 2006. Other sources used include IPv6 Essentials, second edition, by Sylvia Hagen, and the Juniper Networks ‘The IPv6 World Report Series’ volumes 1, 2 and 3; Guide for Federal Agencies Transitioning to IPv6, issued in January 2006; IPv6 Capable A Guide for Federal Agencies issued in May 2006 and An essential U.S. Government Agency Transition Guide to IPv6 Routing and Addressing issued in June 2007.

From: A Strategy for the Transition to IPv6 for Australian Government agencies, AGIMO

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Broadband for a Sustainable World

The December 2007 issue of the Telecommunications Journal of Australia has four papers on "Broadband for the Sustainable Environment". These are the winners of the Eckermann-TJA prize, for papers with ideas on how to help the environment using broadband.

The competition was conceived by Robin Eckermann, who is best known for his work as Chief Architect on the TransACT fibre optic network in Canberra. I have arranged for him to give talks around Australia next year with the ACS.

The winning papers:
  1. Broadband communication enables sustainable energy services, by Mike Dennis, Haley M Jones:

    Australia's electricity supply infrastructure requires investments exceeding $100b over the next 25 years to maintain quality of service to domestic users. Being careful to distinguish energy service needs from electricity delivery, the case is made for distributed energy services which offer improved sustainability outcomes to the traditional monolithic generation model. A key enabling technology for commercial success of the proposed paradigm is a broadband communication infrastructure. Broadband is essential in meeting the cost reduction and performance targets that would allow a distributed energy service model to succeed. Using broadband, a large number of novel business opportunities arise. A case study on solar water heaters is presented showing that a broadband enabled smart controller can realise 20% greenhouse gas savings for a conventional solar water heater and 75% savings for an electrical water heater.

  2. Broadband telecommunications and urban travel, by R J Nairn:

    Energy consumption associated with transport is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. As the information economy expands, the potential to use broadband to eliminate a percentage of daily trips grows. In particular, broadband can make it possible for a percentage of the workforce to work effectively and efficiently from home on at least one or two days a week.

    This paper explores key economic and environmental benefits of a hypothetical 5% reduction in daily trips. Using a simulation model to assess the impact on traffic flows indicates that such a reduction would result in a 5.6% reduction in greenhouse emissions in Canberra, a low-congestion city, and 17% in Sydney. It would also result in savings of 5.54% in road maintenance, accidents, motorists' time and fuel costs or about $145 million annually or $1,000 per household by 2011. In Sydney these would be 10.5% or $5 billion annually or $3,300 per household.

  3. Broadband and the environment, by Roger Saunders:

    Availability of broadband to rural and remote communities would enable agriculturists to use Landsat, Geo-positioning and Agronomy to better manage the environment. Landsat imaging has developed significantly since the first Landsat satellite launch in 1965. Data now available from these can provide beneficial applications including improved water management, crop assessment, land clearing, soil erosion, salt contamination and pollution. Access by farmers and graziers to information and analyses from commercial organisations via high speed broadband on land conditions and the effects of some agricultural practices provides an opportunity to prevent or minimise environmental damage and support effective use of water resources.

  4. The role of broadband in the quest for environmental sustainability, by Tracey Dodd:

    Broadband is changing the way in which we work, communicate and access information and entertainment. These changes have significant implications for environmental sustainability. Broadband is increasing the speed and capability of the Internet, generating new possibilities and making online applications far more attractive for businesses and the community. This paper discusses the role of broadband in contributing to sustainability under three headings; social, environment and economic.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Telstra claims Interent will combat global warming

According to a report in the Age newspaper, Telstra claims that its new broadband network would help reduce global warming:
TELSTRA chief Sol Trujillo has renewed his assault on the Federal Government, this time adding a new and topical twist: failure to accede to the company's demands in exchange for building a new broadband network, he said yesterday, would hamper the fight against global warming. ...

Until yesterday, this dispute had nothing to do with global warming. But Mr Trujillo told the Future Summit in Melbourne that Telstra's desire to build and own a next-generation high-speed broadband network was "about changing the game on climate change".

Mr Trujillo said that an FTTN network would help tackle global warming because faster and more powerful internet services would lessen the amount of travel needed to conduct business and enable more efficient management of electricity grids. ...

While Telstra has built NextG and IP networks - used for mobile phone and some broadband services - its FTTN plans have been shelved. ...

Mr Trujillo also said that FTTN technology would remove the wastage caused by unused electrical devices, saying that mobile phones could be equipped with locators that turned on computers and other devices when a person entered the room. ...

Trujillo turns green in his quest for broadband, Dan Silkstone, The Age, May 15, 2007
This makes some sense, particularly if Access Grid technology, with large high resolution video screens becomes popular for networked meetings. This could be used in home offices, to save having to travel to the office, as well as in offices.

The relevance of Fibre to the Node (FTTN) to this is that it is one technology for delivering higher speed broadband to homes. However, for most working meetings, where the participants know each other and are trying to get work done, rather than impress each other, I have phone a very modest 64 kbps connection is sufficient. This is enough to have a telephone quality audio conference and look at documents and slide show presentations. Existing ADSL speeds would be more than enough to add a good quality video conference.

Cheap widespread access to wireless data networks could be very useful for reducing electricity consumption, by allowing more intelligent metering. Customers would have an incentive to switch off power at peak times, if the wireless network could tell them when that was and they could be billed second by second for it.

Having equipment turned on when people enter a room (or more importantly turned off when they leave) is not a new idea. I tried several such devices in my "Smart Apartment" and ended up with the simplest and cheapest: a security sensor which turns off lights automatically. In a Cambridge computer lab I wore an infrared tag which tracked me around the building, but these were not liked by the staff. Putting the sensor in a phone is clever, but requires no new mobile network, just a $10 RFID tag stuck onto the phone.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Australian Broadband Proposal by ALP

The Federal ALP has proposed a broadband network:
"We're proposing to invest up to $4.7 billion in this proposal in a partnership with the private sector for it to be constructed over a five year period which will deliver for 98 per cent of Australians, a broadband service which is up to 40 times faster than they currently enjoy. ..."

From: Building a National Broadband Network, Kevin Rudd, Press Conference, ALP, 21 March 2007
"With the rollout of a new 'Fibre to the Node' (FTTN) network, it will connect 98% of Australians to high speed broadband services - at a minimum speed of 12 megabits per second, a speed almost 40 times faster than most current speeds.

The remaining 2% of Australians in regional and remote areas not covered by this network will have improved broadband services. ..."

From: Federal Labor's Commitment To National Broadband, Simon Crean, Media Statement, ALP, 21 March 2007
The choice of 12 megabits per second seems to be based on what is possible with current ADSL technology and feasible with wireless in the near future. This would be enough to stream HDTV, regulatory issues permitting.

The ALP proposal seems similar to the G9's "SpeedReach" proposal from a consortium of just about everyone in Australian telecommunications, except Telstra. For Telstra to be included there would have had to be regulatory changes, which the ALP is proposing.

There might also be a place for Paul Budde's UtiliTel proposal for a consortium of power utilities to provide telecommunications.

The issues remain: how to get the data the last few hundred metres from a fibre optic cable into each home and how to service people in rural areas. For for very dense urban areas, such as the apartment building I live in, Ethernet on copper cables can be used. For suburban homes ADSL and copper cables seem most suitable. For rural areas, one solution used in India is their wireless local loop.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Broadband Development and Public Policy, Canberra, 11 December

Adam Johns from the ANU Australia - Japan Research Centre asked me to pass on this invitation to a free workshop on Broadband Policy. I attended the one last year, which was worthwhile. Numbers are limited and you need to RSVP by the 5th December for catering purposes to: adam.johns(a)
Australia - Japan Research Centre in conjunction with National Institute for Informatics, Tokyo

Broadband Development and Public Policy

Monday 11 December
Seminar Room 4, Floor 1 Crawford Building ANU, Canberra.

9:00am – 9:10 Welcome – Professor Jenny Corbett (Executive Director, AJRC)

9:10am – 10:30 Session 1: Broadband Development and Role of Government

Chair: Professor Franco Papandrea (University of Canberra)

Jong Kwan Lee (Crawford School, ANU)
What is the locomotive of broadband development – Government or Market? A case study of Korea

Adam Johns (Crawford School, ANU)
The limits of policy intervention in broadband take-up: a cross-national comparison

10:30 – 11:00 Morning Tea

11:00 – 12:30 pm Session 2: Broadband Policy

Chair: Noboru Sonehara (National Institute for Informatics)
Discussant: Richard Thwaites (Rich Communications)

Deborah Anton (Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts)
Broadband development policy in Australia

Katsuya Watanabe (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)
Broadband policy in Japan

12:30pm–1:15 Lunch

1:15 pm – 3:15 Session 3: Broadband and Public Private Partnerships

Chair: Professor Christopher Findlay (University of Adelaide)

Masashi Ueda (National Institute for Informatics)
Broadband Infrastructure Building in Japan: Market and Public Policy

Jeff Fountain (Crawford School, ANU)
Broadband Public Private Partnerships: Narrowing the Access Divide

3:15pm Closing Remarks – Professor Jenny Corbett (Executive Director, AJRC)
Also on in early December are three comms conferences:
  • Australian IPv6 Summit 2006, Canberra, 4-6 December 2006
  • Australian Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference 2006, Melbourne, 4-6 December 2006
  • Australia-Korea-New Zealand Broadband Summit, Adelaide, 7-8 December 2006

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