Going the Extra Mile with Distance LearningAustralia’s Northern Territory Government Partnerswith Australian Satellite Communications and iDirect New Connectionsto Expand Educational Reach in the Outback ASC and iDirect teamed to increaseFor the Australian government, providing education in the the interactivity of the NTG’s distancenation’s expansive Northern Territory (NT) is a significant learning network:challenge. Students are spread across more than 500,000 ♦♦ Added inbound video so peers and teachers can interact withsquare kilometers. Many do not have the opportunity to each other in real timelearn in a traditional classroom setting—interacting directly ♦♦ Boosted audio and video qualitywith teachers and peers. for better presentationToday, a satellite network implemented and managed by ♦♦ Increased data rates forAustralian Satellite Communications (ASC), and based on application and file sharingthe iDirect platform, is bridging the gap. The NorthernTerritory Government (NTG) is able to bring education tostudents everywhere in the region with the networkingpower to support rich features like two-way video andinteractive applications—making distance learning moreengaging and productive.
Taking Education FurtherHigher Objectives • Supporting real-time collaborative tools,The NT Department of Education and Training such as a digital whiteboard where content(NTDET) first launched its distance learning program can be modified in real time.in 2003. A satellite IP network supported the • Increasing application sharing and fileNTDET’s Remote Education and Conferencing transfer to make lessons and tools moreTool (REACT), which facilitated multicast video, available to students.synchronous audio, file sharing and other • Improving audio quality, especially forapplications that connect interactive teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classesstudios to remote classrooms and homes in and for students with a hearing impairment,real time. and boosting video quality so teachers couldThe initial network fell short of the NTDET’s better present instructional materials.educational objectives. While students could learn The department also needed to address the impactfrom home, they still lacked the collaboration and of the NT region’s tropical climate on networkdiscussion abilities with their peers and teachers performance. Adverse weather conditions, whichthat a traditional classroom setting provides. are common in Northern Australia’s tropical areasIn 2008, the NTDET unveiled an ambitious list of during the five month wet season, can jeopardizenew features it wanted to add to its distance network performance.learning application to increase its effectiveness. A final challenge was sharing the network’sThese included: satellite capacity with other agencies, including • Adding an inbound video capability to the the Department of Health and Families, which network and significantly increasing the was eager to expand its own operations. This number of Interactive Distance Learning (IDL) meant that the network needed a way to lessons available so students could interact dynamically allocate bandwidth among different more directly with teachers and peers. agencies on the network, as well as prioritize usage based on agency and application.A student recieves an interactive lesson at her home computer
A Next Generation NetworkA Stronger ConnectionWith the network contract due for renewal, localsatellite service providers and network operatorswere invited to submit proposals for an alternatesolution. ASC was selected to redesign and managethe distance learning network.Leveraging its in-house engineering and designcapabilities, ASC developed a replacement forNTDET’s existing network to expand its distancelearning program. ASC chose to work closelywith its partner iDirect to build a next-generationsatellite network based on iDirect’s Evolution ASC installed teleport infrastructure in DarwinDVB-S2 platform. After initial testing of the REACTsoftware on an iDirect network via ASC’s Adelaide Peak Performanceteleport, the NTDET realized that the iDirectsystem would provide much greater flexibility To combat the NT’s adverse weather conditions,and capability compared to its original system. the network features iDirect’s Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM) technology. When rainEach participating site in the NTDET program fade threatens to compromise data quality, ACMwas supplied with a 1.8m VSAT antenna, an RF automatically adjusts the modulation settings ontransceiver and iDirect’s Evolution a satellite router to optimize link performance.X3 Satellite Router. This feature, together with uplink power control, isOnce the network design was completed, critical to ensuring a highly reliable system,ASC installed teleport infrastructure in Darwin. despite housing the iDirect hub in one ofIt included an iDirect DVB-S2 universal hub, Australia’s highest rainfall regions. When ASCa 6.2m Ku-band earth station and an earth implemented this feature, initial tests revealed astation building with a power system, generator 400 percent increase in capacity while operatingand UPS. ASC secured Ku-band space segment under heavy rainfall, common in Northernon the AsiaSat4 satellite and established a dedicated Australia’s tropical regions.Service Management Centre (SMC) to provide ASC implemented iDirect’s Group Quality of Service24x7 maintenance and technical support. (QoS) technology to manage traffic across multipleLeveraging the DVB-S2 standard’s significant gains sites and a wide variety of end users. Group QoSin bandwidth efficiency and data throughput, prioritizes traffic by data type, site, router, applicationthe iDirect network was able to increase the and other criteria. With this feature, the NTDETNTDET’s IP data rates up to the current 33 Mbps can categorize and prioritize all network trafficoutbound and 9 Mbps inbound. The larger inbound according to its own usage criteria. This is a criticalcarrier sizes, together with iDirect’s Time Division requirement for ensuring the integrity of real-timeMultiple Access (TDMA) shared bandwidth platform, applications. In addition, the network allows eachenabled the NTDET to expand its network from government agency to be separated on the hubstrictly audio return to also include video return. using VLANs to provide secure access between their sites.
Greater Interaction“The iDirect platform delivers several critical By March 2009, the Australian Telecommunications differentiators that help us meet the program’s Users Group (ATUG) recognized the success of the rigorous demands,” said Chris Joseland, managing network and awarded the NTG a National Award director of Australian Satellite Communications. for Effective Use of Broadband.“Technologies like Group QoS and ACM enable the Today, with a next generation iDirect network network to easily handle a wide range of real-time implemented by ASC, the NTG is able to ensure applications and operate at peak performance that students in remote parts of Australia have in any geography.” the same educational benefits as those inExpanding the Program traditional classroom settings.In January 2009, in the middle of the tropical wetseason, more than 200 remote sites were transitionedfrom the incumbent satellite system to the newnetwork. Since the transition, there has been asteady growth of sites.In the virtual classroom, students are enjoying Australian Satelliteimproved social interaction. While previously theycould only interact with the teacher, now they Communications (ASC)can collaborate with their peers. Some classes ASC offers a wide range of satellite broadbandeven start as much as one hour early to allow services throughout Australia and the Asia Pacificstudents to use online chat facilities. The program region. This iDirect partner is a strategic serviceset a new attendance record of 65 students in a provider to the education, corporate, government,single REACT classroom session. maritime, oil and gas, and mining industries. iDirect 13865 Sunrise Valley Drive Herndon, VA 20171 +1 703.648.8000 +1 866.345.0983 www.idirect.net Advancing a Connected World