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Inside NBN's $32.5m 'nerve centre': photos

The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) has opened its Network Operations and Test Facility (NOTF), which it calls the "nerve centre" of the NBN. Take a walk with ZDNet Australia to see what the back end of Australia's biggest network will be like.

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Topic: Networking
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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The racks of switching and storage equipment in NBN Co's $32.5 million NOTF "go way back" through the building, CEO Mike Quigley pointed out. Testing segments include the same equipment that the NBN is built on, allowing telecommunications providers test new services on a sandboxed NBN segment before they're rolled out to the general population.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

A feature video wall, build into the new NBN Discovery Centre, aired one of many promotional videos that the company has created to promote the NBN's benefits to the greater population. One of them was Professor Sandra Harding, vice-chancellor and president of James Cook University, who sees the network as a great opportunity for giving regional areas the equivalence they deserve.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

NBN Co's family of premises-access devices has a high profile at the Discovery Centre, which is aimed at helping residents understand the real face of the NBN and what it can do for them. NBN Co has fielded over 1000 requests for Discovery Centre tours already, CEO Mike Quigley said.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The Step Training System, designed to improve muscle strength, balance and coordination in elderly patients, was inspired by the video game Dance Dance Revolution, and represents one of the interactive tele-health applications that many believe will revolutionise the care and follow-up of remote patients.

Promotion of such initiatives could help reduce the incidence of falls, which cost the NSW economy over $500 million last year alone, according to Dr Stuart Smith, senior research scientist for Neuroscience Research Australia. "Not only can we get people to take a test to see how likely it is that they'll have a fall," he said, "but they can review their own results, and, if necessary, set up a video consultation with a remote fall-prevention expert. This gives us the ability to potentially deliver fall-prevention tools into the home that previously were almost impossible to deliver."

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The opening of the centre represents a significant milestone for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who has fought a vociferous opposition and the sheer logistical effort associated with the NBN to bring the venture to fruition.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley was all smiles as he opened the new "nerve centre" for the NBN. "This test facility allows us to give our customers, the retail service providers, the opportunity to hook into our systems and services, and test their services with ours," he said. "This is a massive machine, and it will ensure that when they launch services on our network, they will do so seamlessly."

He also told reporters that about 3000 people now have services on the NBN, including people on the interim satellite service and people at sites in Tasmania and five sites on the mainland.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Victoria's Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips welcomed the NBN Co facility's creation of over 400 new jobs to service NBN Co, and over $2 billion worth of NBN-related supply contracts for Victoria-based companies. He also addressed his recent complaints that NBN Co has set up a disproportionately low number of sites in Victoria: "We might have different views on the policy aspects of the NBN," he said, "but from this project, we simply want to get the best deal for Victoria."

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Adding an element of fun to ongoing care can be a great way to improve patient participation in rehabilitative care, says Dr Stuart Smith, senior research scientist with Neuroscience Research Australia and a regular on the NBN launch circuit. "You might think video games and health don't go together well," he said. "But this is a game we can use to get people to become more physically active. And we know that physical activity is a really good way to address a number of different problems."

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Mind the generation gap: the demonstration granny showed she still has the chops to teach her younger rival a thing or two.

Dr Stuart Smith envisions the game as a way for stroke-rehabilitation specialists to engage with distant patients, many of whom fail to remain compliant with their rehabilitation programs after leaving hospital. "We lose track of them over time," he explained. "We don't know if they're continuing to do their rehabilitation exercises."

Bandwidth and latency issues on conventional networks initially led Halfbrick CEO Shaniel Deo to dismiss Smith's suggestion of a networkable version of Fruit Ninja. "There's no good value proposition for me to put my game onto a standard ADSL network," Smith recalls Deo saying. "This is a game that requires high speed for two people to be able to play each other at the same time, and over a standard ADSL network, it's just too slow."

When Smith suggested that Deo could get access to the NBN NOTF to build and test the game, he recalls, "his eyes lit up and he asked 'when can we start?'"

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Senator Stephen Conroy and NBN Co chairman Harrison Young mark the unveiling of the dedication plaque for the $32.5 million NOTF.

Conroy said that NBN Co's roll-out figures were on target, and that the next three-year roll-out plan would be announced early next year.

"I think that NBN Co will surprise you with the sheer size of the roll-out plan for the next three years," he said.

"It will cover safe Labor seats, safe Liberal seats, marginal seats Labor, marginal seats Liberal, independent seats and Tasmania."

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Darren Alexander, CEO of Tasmanian firm Autech Software & Design (l), was among the 100 or so guests to attend the opening of the centre, which, along with the companion NBN Co truck demonstration vehicle, is expected to attract 100,000 people per year.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The NBN Co facility's boardroom is positioned next to the Network Service and Operations Centre (NSOC), a 24x7 monitoring and control facility that controls the NBN across the country. In the event of an unplanned natural or other disaster, senior NBN Co staff can assemble around this table and work directly with support staff to ensure that downtime is minimised or avoided altogether.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Staff within the NSOC work 24x7 in teams including a Customer Operations Team (to support NBN Co partners), Network Surveillance Team (to proactively monitor and manage the NBN) and Operations Support Team (delivering comprehensive network maintenance).

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The NBN NOTF employs 425 people now, and is expected to pass 900 staff by next year, as the network continues to grow. This includes specialists to ensure smooth operation of the NBN Business Support Systems (BSS) and Operational Support Systems (OSS), which are housed in the NBN Co datacentres and directly linked to staff in the NSOC.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

NBN Co's dedicated truck will pass 100 towns and cities per year, educating Australians of all stripes about the network and the benefits that it will bring them. The truck has expanding sides and a flexible multimedia system, and will set up for days at a time, hosting local business and community leaders and anyone else interested in learning about the project.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

For many Australians, the truck will be the first tangible sign of a network that may still be years away. They'll get the chance to touch and feel the devices that will connect their homes with fibre, fixed wireless and satellite internet that will, even in their current form, provide better speeds in rural areas than many Australians get in the cities using ADSL2+.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

The requirement for NBN Co Network Termination Units (NTUs) to have a battery back-up remains a contentious issue for NBN Co, which has introduced the devices to ensure a continuous back-up telephone service in the event of a power outage. The federal opposition recently called on Labor to foot the estimated $140m bill to manage the service and replacement of millions of limited-lifespan batteries every year.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

With a long video wall, bright strip lighting, good ventilation, security cameras and waist-high drinks tables, the touring NBN Co truck could be the perfect party venue — although there's no word as to whether it will in fact be hired out for birthdays and buck's nights.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Coming to a paddock near you: NBN Co's expandable trailer will tour around 100 towns and cover 60,000 kilometres per year, taking the NBN road show to the residents it serves. Combined with broad interest in the new Discovery Centre, the truck is expected to put the NBN message in front of over 100,000 people per year.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

NBN Co's operations centre is located in Melbourne's new Docklands precinct, which has become popular with technology and media companies, and sits just west of the city's CBD.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Behind this smoky glass and green-highlighted concrete lies the nerve centre of the entire NBN.

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(Credit: David Braue/ZDNet Australia)

Note the Middle Eastern-inspired arches, Granny Smith-inspired highlights and Picasso-inspired aesthetic of the ... OK, we made that up. The building, which adopts the Lego-styled postmodernist design of many around it, sits within Docklands' Digital Harbour Precinct.

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