Australia's Telstra completes one of several ongoing fiber projects

Australia's Telstra Corp. Ltd. announced back in August 1998 that it would build one of the continent's largest Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) backbone networks for Qantas, Australia's largest airline. After 14 months, the two companies unveiled the completed national network. The deal represents one of Telstra's biggest commercial deals.

The Qantas network provides data, voice, and Internet connectivity to the airline's operational and administrative offices throughout Australia, including airports, reservation centers, travel centers, freight facilities, engineering sites, and administration centers. Progressively deployed and brought on line during the past year, the network is now fully operational.

The scalable high-speed, high-capacity ATM network core is based on Telstra's national fiber-optic network with the required Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) rings and building entry points to support the sites. Traffic operates at 155 Mbits/sec, with some points as high as 622 Mbits/sec. The deal calls for Telstra to build and manage all aspects of the network, including a unique management agreement.

According to Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski, a key aspect is the integration of the Qantas backbone network-management functions into a single Telstra-managed entity known as the Qantas Care Team. The team is part of a total business solution to fully manage the network, providing improved service levels, greater availability and reliability, and comprehensive performance reporting.

Key contractors for the network include Cisco Systems (San Jose) and Nortel Networks (Brampton, ON). Cisco supplied routers, local-area-network switches, and ATM switches throughout Australia to provide a foundation for the network. Nortel provided the ATM solution, consolidating voice and data traffic on a high-speed, cost-effective wide-area network backbone.

Perhaps the completion of the Qantas network will enable Telstra to focus on at least two other major fiber-optic projects currently underway for the Australian telecommunications provider.

For starters, the company will be the sole carrier responsible for supplying all telecommunications for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney next year. Telstra is nearing completion of its 4800-km fiber-optic Millennium Network that will provide four billion people around the world a view of the games by interconnecting with existing transoceanic systems.

More recently, Telstra committed to taking the lead role in a consortium planning to build a new submarine fiber-optic Internet cable between Australia and Japan. Though primarily to meet growing data-traffic demand, the cable will also be capable of handling voice and multimedia services. The Australia-Japan cable will feature a design capacity of 640 Gbits/sec.

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