NBN Co has awarded a contract to Enex TestLab to build a dedicated testing facility, which will allow vendors and service providers to test copper-based applications and equipment on an NBN Co fibre network.
The Enex TestLabs Analogue Telephony Interoperability facility - referred internally at NBN Co as the 'NBN Plug Bench' and located in the first release site in Melbourne's Brunswick, is scheduled to go live by the end of August.
It promises equipment manufacturers the ability to test their wares on services offered by every major RSP (retail service provider) currently connecting customers to the national broadband network.
The Government-owned wholesale network operator has previously published a list of services that have traditionally run on copper networks that may be incompatible with the fibre networks scheduled to replace them.
These include older ATMs, security alarms, payphones, eftpos terminals, older ISDN and Frame Relay connections, and other low-data connections that traditionally ran over copper networks. Under the current agreement struck between NBN Co and Telstra, copper services are disconnected 18 months after the area is connected with fibre.
From a practical level, the Plug Bench will feature multiple network termination devices (NTD), each connected to various RSP services, that manufacturers can plug into. Each NTD contains two Uni-V voice ports and four Uni-D data ports [pdf], both of which can potentially be used to replace copper-based services.
The first organisations able to use the facility will be those that previously responded to a call for expressions of interest some months ago.
"We have had keen interest from a number of device manufacturers to provide an environment to test their equipment against multiple Retail Service Providers for testing and interoperability purposes," an NBN Co spokesman said.
"The initial phase is focused on analogue telephony devices (Fire Alarms, Security Alarms, Medical Alarms, etc) and then testing will expand to IP devices such as routers."
iTnews understands that use of the test lab will be free of charge (at least upon launch).
A spokesman for NBN Co told iTnews that Brunswick was a natural choice for the facility - being that it is an inner metro first release fibre site with some 34 Service Providers already offering NBN Services. It is also close to both NBN Co's engineering facilities and to Enex TestLab's HQ at RMIT.
Technology vendors and their customers (affected banks and retail networks, for example) can book the interoperability lab by contacting NBN Co.
Do you operate special services on Telstra's copper network? We'd like to hear from you.