Telstra has won a five-year, $146 million network services deal to provide network connectivity to 1550 Australian Catholic schools.
The deal, negotiated on behalf of the schools by the Australian Catholic Education Network Consortium, will see Telstra connect five data centres over an optical fibre network that connects to more than nine in 10 Catholic schools.
Graeme Jane, a consultant on the project told iTnews the consortium started planning the network two years ago.
"It is a significant process to convince the church and 24 separate dioceses around the country of the idea to have one network for everyone's benefit, then to agree on specs, on services, on governance," he said. "That takes a long time."
Jane said the group went to tender with strict requirements around capability and price, from which Telstra "came up trumps".
Telstra may win more business from the Catholic Church by contract provisions allowing it to extend the network to church's health and welfare operations, Jane said.
Telstra was required to allow the church to migrate to the Federal Government's National Broadband Network (NBN) should it be delivered to most of the schools before the five-year contract is over.
"We were certainly aware the National Broadband Network was coming," Jane said. "What the Catholic Education Group has done is say, we will have an open mind to it. We are fully aware the fibre to the premises NBN is a solution for us down the track. But we need a network right now. It might take a long time for the NBN to get to all the places where these 1600-odd schools are."
"We asked ourselves - can we afford to wait? The answer was no. So we mitigated the risk by putting safeguards in the contract to allow for big changes in the industry down the track. We have allowed for a transition to the NBN."
The network will be operated by the church's Catholic Network Australia. But it will not be filtering the feed that goes to schools.
Such issues are dealt with at state level but under the new network, filtering will be decided on by dioceses.
"(Catholic Network Australia) will not be imposing any filter on the network - it will be the responsibility of agencies within each diocese," Jane said. "They might ask (it) to do it collectively down the track but for now all applications are decided at diocese level."