Advanced network coming, Cunliffe says

Talks underway with users and carriers

Plans are advancing for a proposed high speed network called Advanced Research and Education Network for Aoteroa designed to link universities, crown research institutes and other institutions hungry for high speed links to power their research.

Speaking to Computerworld late last month, associate communications and IT minister David Cunliffe said the government is talking with both potential users and carriers of the "Arena" network.

"We're embarking on a proposal for discussions with telcos and providers, through an open process, to look at the optimal rent-build mix."

A discussion document released earlier this year noted the network would be made up of GigaPoPs (points of presence) located near user institutions and Cunliffe says the minimum speed would be 10Mbit/s.

Cunliffe says Arena will be optimised for short burst, high density traffic and while the government will fund the network, user institutions will also share in the costs, he says.

"The user community should reflect the value it will get from it by contributing and we expect them to pick up a significant part of the running costs."

The discussion document notes "it is expected that individual users would form partnerships with regional telecommunication providers to supply the 'last mile' access."

Cunliffe declined to discuss the cost of the proposed network.

"It's probably not appropriate to specify an exact amount, but because it's [an important project], the government will be putting significant resources into it."

No launch date has been set, but Cunliffe says "I'd expect to see work underway in the next 12 months and it'll be funded from this years' budget."

The Arena idea evolved from work done by NGI-NZ, the Next Generation Internet Society, last year on how an advanced network could be established in New Zealand.

New Zealand is one of the few OECD countries without a special high speed network for research-oriented institutions and the discussion document notes "an advanced network is critical for the development of skills in priority areas such as biotechnology, ICT and the creative industries, as well as to retain talented New Zealanders in the country."

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