The Vocational Education Backbone Network-Not Quite AARNET

Richard Chirgwin examines the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ proposed Vocational Education Backbone Network (VBN).

It might look a lot like AARNET, but it’s not.

The Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ $70 million tender for a Vocational Education Backbone Network (VBN) provider, published on 18 February as part of its Vocational Education Network (VEN) plan, is for a backbone network connecting major capital cities – which makes it look somewhat like AARNET.

However, unlike AARNET (which is a carrier and owner/operator of network infrastructure in its own right), the VBN tender makes it clear the government is seeking services rather than building a new “AARNET for TAFEs” network.

The lion’s share of the $80 million announced for the VEN is going into this backbone, which is to provide gigabit services wherever possible.

Connection of this backbone to TAFE colleges in individual states will fall to the relevant state Departments (presumably on the assumption that the states already have data services rolled out to TAFE colleges).

AARNET is more than a backbone; it is an access network serving universities; and even so, alternative arrangements within states (such as Victoria’s VERNET) also exist to provide networking between universities and to the AARNET network.

In other words, what the government is doing in the VBN is an exercise in demand aggregation: it’s seeking competitive bids for a network which might more expensive if purchased link-by-link by the various states.

By seeking a service contract rather than a network build, the

The network is expected to commence operation in 2011. As well as providing 1 Gbps on most links (with 100 Mbps to smaller centres), it requires redundancy, QoS support, and the ability to peer both to state and federal whole-of-government networks and to other academic networks.

Once EOIs have been received, DEEWR expects to nominate five respondents to proceed to an RFT.

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