OzTech: 5G innovation; spectrum auction; NextDC edge data centre; Coles hires IT pros; learning analytics; NSW telco ops centre; Optus, La Trobe lab

OzTech Roundup is Computerworld Australia’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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5G Innovation Initiative gets more funding

After an overwhelming number of applications for round 1 of the 5G Innovation Initiative, which made the Australian federal government double the value of funding for the first round, the government has announced another $20 million to fund round 2.

The government has also set aside $2 million that will go specifically to projects in the eight Western Sydney council areas forming part of the Western Sydney City Deal.

The government is yet to open round 2 for applications and to specify the details, but successful applicants will develop and test 5G applications, services and products to demonstrate the commercial incentive for businesses to adopt 5G solutions. Round 1 had grants from $100,000 to $2 million and selected 19 projects to be developed over a 12-month period across many sectors, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transport, and education and training.

Consultation on the draft guidelines is expected to commence in the coming weeks.

NextDC announces edge data centre network

NextDC has announced plans to build a network of edge data centres with the first one, SC1, to be located in Maroochydore, in Queensland. Edge data centres are smaller facilities located closer to the end users than public cloud facilities and provide lower latency to users.

The Queensland facility has been acquired by NextDC and was previously owned and operated by Sunshine Coast Council and provides colocation and connectivity to Brisbane and the North-Eastern parts of Australia. The facility was purpose-built for the landing station of the 7000km Japan-Guam-Australia South (JGA South) submarine cable.

The facility is the first east coast landing site for a broadband network cable outside of Sydney.

Queensland government telecommunications organisation QCN Fibre, a joint venture of Powerlink Queensland and Energy Queensland, will help NEXTDC’s Brisbane data centres — B1 and B2 — to JGA South cable.

Low-band 5G spectrum auction results

The auction of the 5G 850/900 MHz band has been finalised, with Optus acquiring 12 lots of spectrum for $1.4 billion and Telstra acquiring four lots for $615 million.

Of the 12 lots acquired by Optus, two had been set aside for a pre-determined price and two lots of 1MHz were automatically allocated to Optus as the winner of the 900MHz lower lots.

In August, the Australian government set limits to the amount of low-band spectrum (850MHz and 900MHz bands) that mobile network operators would be able to acquire in Australia’s upcoming 5G spectrum auction, preventing bidders from holding more than 40% of the spectrum for populated regions and 45% for less populated areas. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) had also been directed to  set aside 10MHz of spectrum for Optus and TPG Telecom in the frequency ranges 895MHz–915MHz, and 940MHz–960 MHz

Licences acquired on 6 December will be effective of 1 July 2024 for a 20-year term ending in 2044. ACMA said winning bidders may have the opportunity to obtain early access to the spectrum under special circumstances before licences commence.

Coles is hiring 70 digital professionals

Supermarket chain Coles has announced plans to hire 70 professionals with skills in software engineering, user experience and user interface design, analytics, product management and delivery, to help drive digital transformation in its eCommerce business.

The roles are with the Coles Melbourne store support centre but the organisation is encouraging professionals from across the country to apply.

Monash University opens centre for learning analytics

Melbourne-based Monash University has launched the Centre for Learning Analytics at Monash (Colam) creating a hub to train students, professionals, and leaders in analytics.

The centre will focus on four areas: research; innovation; education and training. Colam will focus on the development of learning analytics technology, enhance the understanding of human learning and education across different education levels, and deliver new education opportunities across different organisations and age groups.

The centre has researchers already working on projects to help adapt to post-pandemic needs such as supporting development of data-smart schools, using AI to build skills for teamwork and collaboration, studying the impacts of COVID-19 on teaching practice, and looking at opportunities for virtual internships.

NSW opens telco operations centre for bushfires, floods support

A telecommunications operations centre was launched in New South Wales (NSW) to support critical communications during bushfires and floods. The centre will be managed by the NSW Telco Authority Telecommunications Emergency Management Unit (TEMU).

The centre will be used to monitor, gather information, analyse data and geospatial mapping to provide real-time information on potential impacts to telecommunications infrastructure for emergency services organisations, including mobile phone towers and Public Safety Network sites.

Optus and La Trobe University announce a 5G lab

Optus and La Trobe University have extended their existing five-year partnership for another five years and announced the 5G Ideation Lab, a physical facility connected to Optus’ 5G network for practical based research and innovation on the application of 5G across industries and backed by a co-investment of $6.8 million.

The focus of the lab is to accelerate the digitisation of healthcare.

One of the existing projects of the partnership is the focus on cyber skills. Optus Enterprise and La Trobe University have been awarded a cyber skills grant valued at $2.3 million in June 2021 from the Australian Federal Government. The project will create career-ready professionals through industry placements and work experience programs, as well as raising awareness about cyber security skills and training opportunities for high-school students. Other organisations part of the program are Cisco, Quantum Victoria, Wiley, Practera, GHD, and War on Wasted Talent.

Optus Enterprise will also provide upgrades to La Trobe University’s network, cloud infrastructure and contact

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