NBN Co explores 'FTTN in a box' for emergency network fixes

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NBN Co explores 'FTTN in a box' for emergency network fixes
NBN Co's existing network on wheels could soon have a cousin - 'FTTN in a box'.

Plans to take ready-to-roll nodes on the road in trailer once used for education.

NBN Co is refitting a trailer previously used for community education as a “mobile command centre” and exploring the feasibility of “fibre-to-the-node-in-a-box” for use in emergencies.

The company today laid out its emergency management preparations and response options in a blog post.

In addition to having a telephone exchange and cell tower on wheels and portable satellite units - which had already been disclosed - NBN Co revealed several other projects it is working on.

The company said it is in the process of converting “a huge trailer – once hauled around the nation educating the public about the potential benefits of the NBN access network – into a mobile command centre.”

“The expandable trailer – dubbed the Emergency Response Vehicle – is currently being fitted out with communications equipment, including high-tech screens linked to real-time data feeds from the NOC [network operations centre],” NBN Co said.

“It will also feature fold-down workstations for up to 10 occupants and a kitchenette, allowing the command centre to operate self-sufficiently during an emergency situation.”

The company has also created “emergency VoIP kits”, which could be used in situations where the mobile network is knocked out due to a disaster.

The kits were “a temporary solution in which NBN Co could, for example, provide emergency services with a set of phone handsets, each with secure numbers used for voice calls via the Sky Muster satellite service (if the mobile network is offline).”

NBN Co said it planned to further “push the envelope” on disaster preparedness by creating a specific solution that could be dropped onto a roadside to get fibre-to-the-node users back online.

“One concept being explored is ‘FTTN in a box’: a large cube packed with FTTN essentials, such as a node cabinet, generator and battery that can be dropped by the side of the road and used to rapidly ‘plug holes’ in the network,” the company said.

Data sharing

NBN Co also revealed it had struck close relationships with emergency services - to the point where “NBN Co can now access emergency services’ own computer systems”.

The data provided NBN Co with “up-to-the-minute reports of fast-moving situations, such as a bushfire” and could be used in decision-making around protecting or restoring the NBN network in an affected area.

“In NSW, I can log in to the Rural Fire Service’s operational tool, look at a fire live and actually read the commentary of what the firefighters on the ground are saying, access all their maps that show where the burnt area is and also all their modeling about where the fire’s going to be in two hours,” NBN Co’s network emergency manager Cameron Scott said.

Scott’s team also had access to what he called “sophisticated software and mapping tools developed in-house at NBN Co that allow emergency managers to customise data about the network in an easy-to-read, visual manner.”

“We take an aggregated feed of all the weather alerts and emergency services activity, and overlay that on a map,” Scott said.

“We’ve also got our infrastructure layers in there so you can have a quick look and say, ‘OK, if this is the warning area, these are the assets that are actually inside.’”

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