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Monday, 10 October 2011 05:01

Emerson wins $100m NBN network facilities deal

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Emerson Network Power has won a $100m plus contract to build 10 'network facilities centres' around Australia for NBN Co that will house network management equipment, and core network equipment for the wireless and satellite networks and provide facilities for NBN staff.

There will be two facilities in each of the main capital cities - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide - and the entire project is due to be completed in 12 months. They will also be part of NBN Co's transit backhaul network that will provide backhaul from its fibre access nodes that do not have access to competitive backhaul.

Where there is competitive backhaul the fibre access node will be a PoI for access seekers. The network however will connect to all FANs/PoI to carry NBN Co's signalling and network management traffic.

Emerson will supply the structures and the power and cooling systems for the centres and will be responsible for their design and construction - sites will be a mixture of brownfield and greenfield locations.

Emerson modules key to its success
Adrian Whatley, NBN Co's technical lead on the project from the architecture and technology group in NBN Co's CTO organisation, told ExchangeDaily that one of the main reasons Emerson won the contract was the modular nature of its offering. "That gives us the ability to deploy rapidly and cost effectively," he said.

According to Emerson, it will provide products from its "comprehensive product suite, including high-efficiency power systems (Trinergy and ASCO); Liebert precision cooling systems and SmartAisle optimisation; SiteScan infrastructure monitoring and management; and fully integrated, factory-tested modular housing systems."

CONTINUED

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It added: "The products are complemented by Emerson's in-house integration expertise, combining solution engineering, end-to-end project management, global supply chain and logistics." Civil works will be subcontracted to Silcar (an existing NBN Co contractor for the FTTH rollout) and Greenbox Architecture.

Emerson said its bid, and the implementation drew on "a global platform of products, combined with experienced R&D and service teams in Australia, Europe, Asia and North America."

Emerson  adding 30 staff
David Scott, managing director of Emerson Network Power Australia, said: "this has truly been a global effort." He said the company had already added about 15 staff to its 260 strong Australian workforce to deliver the NBN Co project and expected to add as many again. "The vast majority of this $100m plus project - about 90 percent - is local products and services. We have architecture, we have civil works."

He added that the modular architecture at the core of the Emerson bid could be used outside the telecom space. "We will certainly promote this to the industrial area. Once [the NBN contract becomes public], we are sure it will elevate our position in the local market."

Whatley explained that the centres would house a mixture of network management systems, specifically the element management servers that monitor and control individual pieces of hardware throughout the network, and core network equipment for the wireless and satellite networks as well as acting as nodes in NBN Co's transit network that connects its 121 points of interconnect to its fibre access nodes.

Why NBN Co needs 10 centres
He said that technical considerations required the centres to be distributed around the country but also NBN Co had put a cap on the power that each could consume, because of limited availability of power from the grid in any single location, and this was the reason for two centres in each capital city. "We might have wireless and network core equipment in one and corporate IT equipment in another about 20kms away." These two centres will not back each other up: redundancy will be provided by centres in other states.

The centres will not be used by staff monitoring and managing the network and will not necessarily be continuously staffed. "Because we need to have these around the country we have taken the opportunity to have some strategic spare parts and some operational staff in them - there will be internal training facilities in them'¦We are not building offices with equipment space out the back, it is the other way round," he said.

Whatley declined to put a figure on how many staff each facility would hold, but said 10 was "the right order of magnitude."

According to NBN Co's performance report, submitted last month to the joint NBN Committee "The Transit Project includes planning for three elements: Dark Fibre Links, Fibre Access Nodes, and Aggregation Nodes. NBN Co is also in the process of selecting a construction contractor for the provision and installation of the Transit Network."

Whatley said: "Whether we lease dark fibre or install it will depend where the site is. If there is third party fibre at these sites we would lease it, that decision has yet to be made."

According to NBN Co's December 2010 Corporate Plan: "State Operations teams will be established in depots in each state and territory. NBN Co staff will cover safety, quality assurance, local contractor management, migration and non-standard services. The bulk of routine field requirements in support of assurance and activation activities will be provided by contracted resources."

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