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Friday, 11 August 2017 12:01

Telstra's big bets for the network of 2020


Software-defined networking, multiple mobile networks, data centres in the exchange, and catering for autonomous vehicle networking are some of the things Telstra has in store for the very near future.

The year 2020 is almost upon us. That year is no longer SciFi, it's only three years away. By contrast, Y2K is ancient history.

Last night at the Australian Computer Society's Newcastle chapter, Telstra's Craig Mulhearn, principal consultant, Networks, presented his view of the company's vision for the future.

Mulhearn has spent 35 years with Telstra, much of that driving product development for data and IP products across enterprise and government. Today he works as the conduit between Telstra's data and IP products and large customers.

He explained that Telstra learned lessons from last year's series of outages and has invested heavily in its network to ensure vast numbers of devices could re-enroll swiftly in the event of a disconnection, among other rectifications and enhancements.

Speaking to the future, Mulhearn stated with the removal of copper-based technologies, and the greater widespread availability of fibre, Telstra would halve its number of exchanges. "That's fewer exchanges to catch on fire," he joked.

These exchanges will become data centres in their own right, with far greater virtualisation of equipment. Rather than racks of switches and devices and cables, the near-future exchange will be a data centre with virtualised networking, enabled by software-defined networking.

SDN will allow network paths to be easily established within minutes via Web-based tools. As with cloud computing, SDN will enable elastic networks. A customer could create a flow between data centres in two different countries with 1Gbps traffic for one hour, for example.

At the same time, Telstra will increase its count of mobile bridge stations, expecting that 70% of all mobile traffic will be video by 2020.

Telstra has been analysing the type of applications people use its network for, broadly classifying them across a range of bandwidth and latency requirements.

Some applications have only low bandwidth needs, but demand low latency, such as high-volume trading, while other applications have greater or fewer bandwidth needs, and greater or fewer latency requirements. Mulhearn cited autonomous vehicles as an application which would demand both low latency and high bandwidth and said Telstra has to provide the network to cater for these differing requirements.

Telstra identified the growing prevalence of Internet of Things devices as such an application it must cater for – not simply home automation but agricultural and industrial applications such as tagging sheep in large farms.

To cater for these demands, Mulhearn says Telstra will have not one, but two, and possibly three, mobile networks in the near future. While they may use the same spectrum, they will offer different mixes of geographical reach and latency and bandwidth. An IoT mobile network, for non-critical devices, for example, may offer plans with low bandwidth, but higher geographical reach and low latency.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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