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Innovation at the heart of nbn emergency response

3-minute read

In an Australian first, nbn road tested its Point of Interconnect on Wheels, an innovative solution designed to keep customers connected when disaster strikes.

At nbn, maintaining and restoring the services communities rely on to stay safe and connected with each other and with emergency services will always remain our highest priority in emergency situations.

One way we’re helping ensure the resilience of our network – particularly during a natural disaster – is through innovative mobile Temporary Network Infrastructure that can be rapidly deployed when needed.

An example is our Point of Interconnect (POI) on Wheels.

An Australian first

Designed and developed at nbn, the semi-trailer sized vehicle is fitted with sophisticated network equipment to help keep customers connected in the event of critical infrastructure being knocked offline.

For the first time in Australia, we recently conducted live field trials of the POI on Wheels during a week-long deployment alongside the Telstra communications exchange in the Victorian town of Traralgon (Gunaikurnai Country).

This saw the vehicle’s capability tested in a live environment, with more than 70,000 nbn® services successfully transferred from the exchange.

nbn's POI on Wheels during a week-long deployment alongside the Telstra communications exchange in Traralgon, Victoria

Once deployed, the POI on Wheels can support up to 500,000 customer services for as long as required during an emergency.

The POI on Wheels is part of nbn’s highly flexible suite of mobile Temporary Network Infrastructure, ranging from the compact Multi Tech Trailer and Hybrid Power Cube to the similarly semi-trailer sized Emergency Response Vehicle.

What is a Point of Interconnect?

A critical component of the nbn network, a Point of Interconnect (POI) helps deliver connectivity to customers.

With 121 POIs across Australia, they are the points at which traffic from internet providers is handed across to the nbn network before connecting to customer homes and businesses.

Why the trial?

The trial aimed to road test the POI on Wheels including its ability to restore and maintain services should damage occur to critical infrastructure, such as a telecommunications exchange building.

The functionality of onboard equipment, such as network, routing and switching gear, and the trailer’s ability to integrate successfully with all 121 nbn POIs across the nation, were also assessed.

Darren Mills, Executive General Manager, Network Management at nbn

Darren Mills, Executive General Manager, Network Management at nbn, says the POI on Wheels is an important part of nbn’s emergency management strategy.

“The POI on Wheels is essentially an insurance policy for us and part of our disaster recovery planning.

“If, for whatever reason, one of the 121 POIs around Australia was lost due to an event, such a bushfire or floods, we would bring in the POI on Wheels to replicate the facility and therefore be able to deliver service to those customers.”

Innovation in action

Darren says the development and deployment of the POI on Wheels is a superb example of ‘innovation in action’ at nbn.

“There is nothing else like it in Australia.”

Darren says the team behind developing the POI on Wheels began with a simple problem statement – what would we do if we lost a permanent Point of Interconnect?

“How would we respond and how would we quickly restore services?

“With that problem in mind, and through innovative thinking and collaboration across multiple teams and partners, we've developed this purpose-built solution, which can be taken anywhere in Australia.”

Darren Mills, Executive General Manager, Network Management at nbn, inside the POI on Wheels

Darren says nbn worked closely with Telstra as part of the recent trial.

“The team worked very hard with a lot of careful planning and surgical execution, to cut over 70,000 services to the POI on Wheels.”

Those services were successfully transferred back to the exchange at the end of the weeklong trial.

Continuous improvement

Brenton Thomas, Senior Technical Specialist at nbn, says meticulous planning went into the trial, with three weeks spent setting up at the Traralgon Exchange site and a further week evaluating the POI on Wheels' capability.

“It’s taken several years to go from concept to design and then to have an asset like this that can support our customer base across the country, so it’s been a long journey to get to this point.”

Brenton Thomas, Senior Technical Specialist at nbn (back) with Darren Mills

Phil Astle, General Manager, Network Assurance at nbn, says mobile Temporary Network Infrastructure, such as the POI on Wheels, is a critical capability for nbn.

“The reliance communities have on broadband services is critical and without assets like the POI on Wheels, we could have an extended outage if we do lose an exchange.

“This gives us the ability to restore services to customers really quickly.”

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