The new centre will help grow Alcatel's FTTP business in Australia by providing support on technology and product innovation, market and business development as well as new broadband service delivery, the company said.
The centre is located inside the Alcatel premises in Sydney and will employ six full-time personnel, focusing primarily on network access and application development. Other Alcatel staff, including over 300 software engineers from the company's Service Delivery facility in Alexandria, Sydney, and around the world, will form additional "virtual teams". The existing Alcatel University housed at the same location will also be used for training Alcatel's partners and customers in FTTP technology and related knowledge areas.
"Fibre will be crucial to a future when broadband is ubiquitous, convenient, reliable, and affordable. High-speed Internet access will be integrated into our daily lives, and the 'triple play' of voice, data, and multimedia will ultimately be delivered by fibre," said Michael Howard, principal analyst at Infonetics Research.
Alcatel Australasia chief executive officer Andrew Young said in his speech during an Australian Telecommunications User Group industry breakfast in Canberra, that if customers expect bandwidth of one gigabit per second in the year 2020, fibre is the answer.
"Fibre-to-the-premises can support more telephone lines than any one user could every require. It can support Internet access at speeds at least an order of magnitude faster than the fastest ADSL in Australia right now, and two orders of magnitude faster than basic ISDN. Fibre can also support more cable television channels at higher resolution than any of today's coax-based cable networks," he said.
Young added that Alcatel foresees that FTTP will enable applications such as telephony translation, whereby customers would speak English into a phone and it will be translated into another language; TV on-demand from any broadcaster not just in Australia, but anywhere in the world; or even holographic video conferencing.
"These services will all be able to be delivered into our homes simultaneously and will completely change the way we live, work and play. So if we are moving to a FTTP model we need to think about what that means," he said.
Young said deploying an FTTP network in Australia would be "one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects in the nation's history".
He predicted that, when a country starts green-field deployment of FTTP then, through natural property growth, "over 20 years we would see about 10 percent of the properties fibred".
Young acknowledges that such a move would pose an operational cost challenge, as there will then be a need to support an old network and system as well as the maintenance of the new network.
"This is one of the reasons Alcatel has spent so much time and effort considering the possible future options for FTTP. The decisions made today -- not just by carriers, but also by the government -- will impact on our broadband future. But once a decision is made to start rolling out fibre to the premises, the fibre replacement journey must be planned, executed and supported by government policy," Young said.
"It will be a long journey to the day when at last copper is retired. But it will be retired eventually," he added.
Young believes that for markets like Australia, about half the copper network will be replaced with fibre-to-the-premises over the next 15 years.
"If the government -- whichever government is elected next week -- is truly interested in maintaining and improving our country's economic and social advantages, they will work with the industry to create an environment where Fibre-To-The-Premises is economically viable," he said.