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New technology catalyst for competition

A WA-based research centre has developed a spin-off company that has drawn intense interest from US venture capitalists.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Broadband Telecommunications and Networking has already raised more than US$17 million from US firms such as Benchmark Capital, Foundation Capital, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and Institutional Venture Partners.

The CRC’s technology allows small new telecommunications carriers to tap into the huge market created by the information technology revolution.

CRC CEO Chris Isaac said the technology was particularly good for small carriers in the US.

Essentially the technology combines two technologies into one system that makes the most of optic fibre. This is something never done before.

“It makes it more cost effective for new communications carriers,” Mr Isaac said.

But the centre is not stopping there.

It will soon become a new entity called the Australian Telecommunications CRC involving organisations such as Hewlett Packard, Ericsson, Cable & Wireless Optus, Vodafone, Curtin University of Technology, Monash University, Victoria Univer-sity, RMIT and the CSIRO.

“That centre will build on what we’ve already done but concentrating on two categories,” Mr Isaac said.

The new centre will be concentrating on next generation Internet and mobile phone communications.

“There will be about 60 researchers involved,” Mr Isaac said.

From the centre’s launch in June, $90 million will be invested in it over the next seven years.

Of that the Federal Government is contributing $14.8 million. The remainder will come from the WA and Victorian governments and the centre’s private industry partners.

Mr Isaac said the centre had already analysed the weaknesses in Internet and mobile phone networks.

“We’re in a position to tackle issues a lot of large companies’ research labs can’t,” he said.

Mr Isaac said there was no quality of service for information transfer over the Internet and no guaranteed delivery time.

“We’ll be working toward real-time information delivery which will be especially useful for video and voice transmission,” he said.

The centre has the potential to give WA and Australia a competitive advantage in IT, particularly in these two areas.

Advantages come not only from the potential commercialisation of new technology.

“We will also be creating highly trained, industry focussed post graduates,” Mr Isaac said.

The lack of industry ready IT graduates is a major problem to the WA IT industry.

Australian Information Industry Association WA branch convenor Sharon Brown said that lack was frustrating the industry and likely to get worse when the Year 2000 Bug hit.

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