AARNet recently completed the installation of 310 kilometres of optical fibre for the University of New England (UNE). This new link, between Armidale and Narrabri via Tamworth, is providing UNE and a growing number of other research and education institutions across the New England North West region of New South Wales with access to the network services and digital technologies they need to compete in the digital age.
For UNE, the new high-speed link not only provides a diverse path to Sydney to support access to remote data centres and other ICT needs, it also supports research, collaboration and online teaching and learning across multiple geographically dispersed sites.
The new link connects UNE’s School of Health clinic in Tamworth, study centres in Tamworth, Gunnedah and Narrabri, and the Kirby SMART Farm (Sustainable Manageable Accessible Rural Technologies Farm) to the main UNE campus in Armidale. The challenges of communicating across distance will soon be further addressed when another AARNet fibre build, currently underway to connect a study centre in Taree on the NSW North Coast to the Armidale campus, is complete.
UNE staff and distance education students dropping into these regional study centres now have access to a high-speed 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) broadband network connection and AARNet’s Eduroam wireless network access service, as well as computers, videoconferencing facilities and support staff.
With access to multiple 10Gbps optical fibre links to the main campus and the AARNet national backbone, the UNE Kirby SMART Farm is now able to explore big ideas and build on its reputation as a world-leader in the field of precision agriculture.
This innovative 2,900-hectare facility near Armidale campus is run by the University as a working property and used extensively for research and education. It is a test-bed for new technologies and practices, bringing together researchers across many disciplines and institutions, with the aim of improving productivity, environmental sustainability and support services for farming. Connectivity enables UNE to develop the Farm as a connected classroom and virtual laboratory accessible to students of all ages across Australia and around the world.
University as ‘anchor tenant’ for network infrastructure in a region
UNE is not the only institution to benefit from AARNet fibre running through the region. Armidale, Tamworth and Gunnedah TAFEs are now connected to the network at the same speeds as institutions in metropolitan areas, opening doors to digital education opportunities and experiences for many more people living and working in the region.
The link has enabled a new high-speed network connection between the University of Newcastle’s Department of Rural Health and the Tamworth Base Hospital, supporting teaching and learning for students participating in rural placements at the Hospital.
CSIRO’s FD McMaster Laboratory 10 kilometres south of Armidale has also been able to take advantage of the new fibre build, which conveniently passes by its front gate. The 10Gbps link AARNet provides is enabling animal scientists based in Armidale to share research data more efficiently with experts at other CSIRO facilities and partner institutions across Australia.
UNE is a great example of a regional university playing a role as an ‘anchor tenant’ for network infrastructure in a region, reducing the impact of distance and the isolation and the disadvantage it can bring to regional communities by enabling TAFEs and other education and research institutions to reap the benefits of transformative digital technology. This helps build strong, innovative and sustainable communities around Australia’s great regional institutions.
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