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Security industry sounds alarm on NBN

By: Peter Gosnell
09 December, 2010

In a circular to members earlier this year ASIAL, the Australian Security Industry Association Limited, said the proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) threatens the functionality of alarm systems across Australia.

"Failure to provide a transitional mechanism to ensure an orderly transition of legacy systems following the roll-out of the National Broadband Network will place the owners of over 1 million security, fire and health systems at risk," ASIAL said in its Security Insider bulletin back in May 2010.

A dire prediction indeed.  But is it as bad as ASIAL is making out? That depends on whom you talk to.
When ASIAL originally presented its concerns to NBN Co in December 2009, the government business enterprise established to advance the NBN referred ASIAL elsewhere.

ASIAL chief executive : "The NBN Co advised that it was not within their remit to provide any leadership or direction in resolving these challenges. Rather, the appropriate organisation to approach was the Communications Alliance."

In April 2010, Anne Hurley, the then chief executive of the Communications Alliance, told ASIAL its concerns about copper-wire connected systems moving to fibre-optic cable were not sustainable.

"…..while some issues have occurred in the early days of establishing such services, the increased experience is demonstrating that alarm systems and other voice-band-data applications work very well over packet based architectures," Hurley said in a letter to ASIAL president Ged Byrnes.

Further, Hurley referred in her correspondence to moves by NBN Co to establish interoperability testing facilities to enable the security industry and others to identify and find solutions to any problems arising from the switch to fibre.

"We believe that NBN Co is scoping a test facility, with the intention of providing a facility to test different equipment and to validate with the NBN and to test back with the industry, Hurley said.

In July NBN Co announced it had acquired four levels in the Innovations building in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct that will house, among other things, the National Test Facility. The facility would give telecommunications service providers somewhere to trial their products.

"Retail service providers will need to test their services prior to integration with the network, and the new centre will provide a facility where they can access a simulated live network environment," NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said. 

And in November NBN Co told IndustrySearch.com.au it was still working on the issues raised by the security lobby.

"Both our product and technology teams have had discussions with peak industry bodies in the personal (medical) and security alarm industries, and we are in the process of setting up additional technical deep dive sessions. Out of this work we expect to develop a way forward in relation to the necessary interoperability testing."

Ultimately Tasmania is the place where end user applications like alarm systems will be put to the test because it is there that the first stage of the NBN is already being rolled out.

Phil Smith is general manager of carrier relations and part owner of OptiComm, the firm that is providing and installing much of the technical equipment for the NBN network in Tasmania under contract to NBN Co.

"It is purely speculation by ASIAL that these issues will emerge," Smith said.

"I’m not saying that there won’t be a problem. All I’m saying is that in our current experience and in our testing we haven’t experienced that and we’ve been able to get all those devices working."

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