Norfolk Island cuts telecoms costs with WAN optimisation

Tiny Norfolk Island depends on satellites for all communication with the outside world, and has cut the cost of those links with WAN optimisation.

Norfolk Island is located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. It covers just over 34 square kilometres and was settled in 1856 by descendents of the Bounty mutineers who moved there from Pitcairn Island

The island’s remoteness and dependence on distant suppliers of goods and services, alongside its growing tourist industry, mean that residents and businesses are heavily dependent on the telecommunications infrastructure.

Norfolk Telecom is the territory’s sole telecommunications provider. With just six technical staff, it maintains a network of around 2500 landlines within the territory as well as a prepaid mobile network, internet services and the satellite communications network.

The island’s voice traffic uses a carrier-grade voice compression system and international calls, along with all of the island’s data links are connected via satellite services. This includes all web, email, FTP, VPN and other internet-based traffic.

There are few aspects of life and business on Norfolk Island that are not dependent on satellite communications. The tourist industry depends on internet bookings, businesses need to order almost all their goods and services via telephone and the internet, and over 2000 residents rely on these links for personal communication.

The Supreme Court of Norfolk Island falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia, which requires guaranteed uplink and downlink speeds of at least 512K so federal judges in Australia can preside over Norfolk trials via videoconferencing.

“All of Norfolk Island’s voice and data communications are dependent on parallel satellite links,” said Stuart Robertson, Chief Technology Officer of Norfolk Telecom.

“There is a long-term project aimed at linking Pacific islands such as Tahiti, New Caledonia and Hawaii into a fibre-optic network but it will be 2011 at the earliest before an alternative solution like that is available <0x2014> even if we are able to participate as the cost is very high. Meanwhile, there are quality, availability and commercial imperatives to maximise our use of the existing satellite links.”

In July 2008, Robertson and his team called tenders for the supply of a WAN optimisation solution that met the island’s key criteria. The successful tender needed to offer local Australian and New Zealand support, provide quality of service and traffic prioritisation over the WAN, and it was important that the acceleration worked across all applications on the network.

Norfolk Telecom considered several potential suppliers including Expand Networks and at the end of the selection process decided to trial the proposed Expand solution across the satellite segment of its core Cisco network.

Norfolk Telecom saw immediate benefits in bandwidth and traffic speed through the combination of compression, TCP acceleration for web traffic, and web and FTP caching provided within the Expand solution.

Since implementing Expand, Norfolk Telecom has seen an overall increase between 25 and 50% in bandwidth available across the network with gains of up to 100% in some areas, dependent on traffic flow, and has saved on satellite costs by over $80,000. The ease of use, quality of service and priority traffic services provided by Expand also made it much easier to manage all Supreme Court operations.

Robertson commented, “Expand’s technology has enabled us to improve our service offerings by 100%, doubling the bandwidth we can offer customers, and reduced the latency experienced by customers when using internet-based services. Importantly, the Expand accelerator has ensured key community services, including the operations of the Supreme Court, can function without being inhibited by our remote location.”


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