NBN announces AI, IoT R&D with Sydney and Melbourne universities

UTS and the University of Melbourne will work with NBN on R&D projects across IoT, AI, smart cities, robotics, programmable networks, wireless, and data analytics.

The company rolling out Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) has announced entering three-year research and development (R&D) partnerships with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the University of Melbourne.

Under what it called "major collaborative relationships", NBN said it would work with the two universities on Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), smart cities, programmable networks, data analytics and visualisation, wireless technologies, and "technology for social good" R&D projects.

"These two new relationships will help NBN Co double down on our strong focus on technology innovation for customer experience and operational excellence," NBN CTO Ray Owen explained.

"With these innovative institutions -- UoM and UTS -- we saw a natural fit in helping NBN Co further enable the digital economy."

NBN added that the agreements are also expected to cover opportunities such as "student exchanges" and post-doctoral research collaboration by giving the universities "access to real-world telecoms network operational data".

"The relationship, driven by the University of Melbourne's Networked Society Institute, connects NBN Co to the outstanding research talent of the University," University of Melbourne pro-vice chancellor of Research Collaboration and Partnerships professor Mark Hargreaves added.

"We are excited to see our researchers and students work closely with NBN Co to create positive social and economic impact."

NBN is also working on 5G trials with Ericsson, kicking off tests in Melbourne at the start of April to explore potential upgrade paths of its fixed-wireless service.

NBN's focus on using technology R&D to improve customer experience follows the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) earlier this month revealing that consumer complaints about the NBN tripled to 22,827 for the first half of FY18.

Most NBN complaints were about provider response, at 10,222 in total; poor service quality, at 9,006; connection/changing provider, at 8,929; no service, at 6,778; charges and fees, at 4,348; making a contract, at 490; infrastructure, at 337; in contract, at 250; equipment, at 247; and access or damage to property, at 207 complaints.

"While the slowdown in the rate of complaints is encouraging, NBN Co acknowledges there is still more work to be done, particularly at this critical stage of the rollout as we balance prioritising customer experience without taking our foot off the construction pedal," NBN chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said at the time.

"We will continue to work with industry to improve those parts of the customer's end-to-end experience within our control to reduce complaint volumes."

NBN is also working on initiatives for improved installation training, advanced fault detection, case management with retailers, and a national awareness campaign on speeds and packages, while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Communications and Media Authority examine standards and rules.

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