TPG licences hint at LTE fixed wireless trial in Bendigo

New 3.6GHz “point to multipoint” licence at existing Vodafone tower suggests trial LTE deployment

Australia’s second largest telco, TPG, was granted a number of apparatus radio licence covering parts of the Bendigo area in Victoria.

These new licences, issued on 21 March 2017 by the ACMA, are in addition to the spectrum licences owned by TPG to operate in the 1800 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands.

Whilst apparatus licence are typically issued for one year, the TPG licences are only valid until late October this year — hinting at a short-term trial.

(more…)

New Intercity Fleet – what to expect

On-board Wi-Fi and passenger load displays coming to the New Intercity Fleet

Edit: earlier I had indicated that the trains will come in 6+2 and 2+2 sets.  I have now corrected it to show 6+4 and 4+4 sets as per the contract.

It’s been long overdue, but the beloved intercity V sets first introduced in the 70s will soon be replaced by a new shiny fleet of trains — the New Intercity Fleet.

Some of the details have already been publicly announced by Transport for NSW and NSW Trains… but I thought I might as well dive a little further into the contract with the UGL/Mitsubishi/Hyundai Rotem consortium to see what else I can find.

(more…)

NSW TrainLink refutes existence of non-binary gender

Update (26th November 2016): NSW TrainLink reached out in regards to the blog post. They agreed that the instruction was “offensive and inappropriate” whilst ensuring me that the “instruction was never followed in practice”.

As I have already updated at the bottom of the page, they’ve removed the instruction from its business rules to reflect their “values of inclusion and non-discrimination”.


Folks who don’t identify as either male or female pay double or denied tickets by regional train company

Well, here’s a bit of a shock.  In this day and age, NSW TrainLink is refusing to sell tickets to people who do not identify solely as male or female.

NSW TrainLink is the Government-owned company which runs intercity and regional transport services in New South Wales.  It operates routes to over 350 destinations by trains and coaches.

In its Business Rules Manual, last updated September 2016, the organisation outlines limitations on its sleeper car product on overnight regional trains.

In order to be eligible to purchase a sleeper berth ticket, the company requires the passenger to identify either as a male or female.

Staff are instructed to refuse the booking or request the passenger pay for two beds if they do not elect a binary gender.

The manual goes on to say that “transsexual is not a ‘gender'”:

If a person refuses to nominate being male or female then staff can either sell the person both berths as sole use in the compartment or refuse the booking. Transsexual is not a ‘gender’ and a berth must not be allocated.


This should not be happening.  Not least that this is a Government-owned organisation where this business rule legitimately exists.

What are people who have a “non-specific” sex on their birth certificate supposed to do?

Given how clearly it’s stated, there is ample grounds for a complaint under the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).  Under the law, NSW TrainLink not only has to recognise the existance of non-binary genders, it must also not discriminate against them.

In fact, in the intersex status factsheet on the AHRC website clearly states that intersex people need to be given fair treatment when getting or using services — including transport services:

Getting or using services – such as services provided by restaurants, shops or entertainment venues, banking and insurance services, services provided by government departments, transport services, professional services like those provided by lawyers, doctors or tradespeople

I’d encourage anyone who feels they are being discriminated against this business rule to lodge a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.


It’s one thing to segregate passengers by gender, but to refuse to recognise the existence of non-binary gender is outright ridiculous.

smh.

 

NSW TrainLink claims in its business rules that transsexual is not a gender
NSW TrainLink claims in its business rules that transsexual is not a gender
Update (25th November 2016): all references to gender has been removed in the latest version of the manual.  I’m pleased to see NSW TrainLink’s swift response to this.

NSW TrainLink removes non-binary gender restrictions from its business rules
NSW TrainLink removes non-binary gender restrictions from its business rules

4 things to look out for with the new Opal fares

The Opal fare structure is changing starting next Monday (4th September). Here are 4 facts you need to know about the new Opal fare structure:

1. $2 rebate for switching modes

If you have to transfer between different modes of public transport, you’d know you’re being charged a lot more than someone else travelling the same distance on just one mode of transport.

That’s because Opal calculates fares on distance, but doesn’t carry over the distance when switching modes (e.g. switching from a bus to a train).

To solve this, Opal will introduce a “multi-modal” $2 rebate every time you switch between two different modes of transport. For commuters who have half-priced fares (such as child/youth, concession or seniors), this rebate will be $1 to reflect that fares are also half the price.

2. Weekly travel reward, now 50% off

When Opal was first launched in 2012, a travel reward was added to incentivise users to switch. After 8 journeys per week, subsequent trips made on public transport were free (except for the gate fee at Sydney Airport).

Some commuters took advantage of this quirk by accumulating cheap, pointless journeys early in the week to get free trips later in the week. Opal will now block this quirk by making fares half-price after the first 8 journeys, rather than free.

3. $2 rebate won’t work between Light Rail and Ferry

Due to technical limitations, Opal card users won’t receive a $2 rebate when switching from a ferry to a light rail service. It’s not too much of a problem at the moment as it will only affect commuters who switch between the F4 ferry and the L1 light rail service at Pyrmont Bay.

For commuters in Newcastle, the Stockton ferry is considered a bus for fare calculation purposes and so, are unaffected by this technical limitation.

Opal says the issue will be fixed by the time the CBD and South East Light Rail is completed in 2019, when Circular Quay will become a major ferry/train/light rail interchange.

4. Tap off to get the $2 rebate

It’s more important than ever to tap-off correctly. The multi-modal $2 rebate is only applied if you tap-off correctly on your previous trip.

If you forget, not only will you miss out on the rebate — you’ll be charged a full “default fare” AND your journey might not count towards your 8 journeys per week to get half-priced fares.

Opinion: New HSC structure and syllabus from 2018

STEM back on the agenda, but compulsory English still needs major reform

Today, the Minister for Education announced wide set of changes to the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC) over the next four years. Here are a few thoughts I had on some of the changes:

New syllabus for science courses

Amongst the changes are new course structures and syllabuses for English, Mathematics and Science as well as a renewed focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses.

Having reviewed the draft syllabus writing briefs and consultation reports — science subjects are shifting away from a “social science” focus and instead re-focusing on the fundamentals of science.

For example, the current Chemistry module on Acids and Bases (called The Acidic Environment) has a focus on the history of acids were defined, the uses of esters and acids in society and the impact of things like acid rain to society. In HSC exams, the “big mark” questions are based almost entirely on social impact of science rather than the actual chemistry.

The current syllabus writing brief indicates drops almost all mention of societal impact. It lists four fundamental topic areas for Acids and Bases: Types of acids, pH and pOH, Strength of acids and Volumetric analysis.

I certainly don’t want to see the social science portion eliminated; having students understand applications is extremely useful for students to contextualise their learning and I believe, improves engagement. However, I do think reducing (not eliminating) the social science components will help students prepare for further education beyond the HSC.

The announcement also confirmed that they will be adding an extension course for science subjects. The lack of an extension science course was always a head scratcher for me. There are extension subjects for the two largest arts subjects (English and History), yet none existed for science. This is an exciting and a long awaited development.

Renewed English syllabus

I am, however, disappointed at the lack of major reform in the English courses. The current Advanced and Standard English courses can be characterised more as a philosophy and media course than an English course, and it certainly doesn’t seem like that has changed.

Other than changes in the name of modules, there are no significant changes to the course content.

For English (Advanced), the modules map almost directly from the old to the new syllabus:

  • Area of Study (Discovery) => Texts and Human Experiences
  • Representation and Text => Textual Conversations
  • Critical Study of Texts => Critical Study of Literature
  • Comparative Study of Texts and Context => The Craft of Writing: Writing Through Time

As the HSC’s only compulsory subject, the subject does not teach or assess English skills independent of history, differing views (or politics) and “human experiences” (all of which are non-English concepts).

There are some who argue that Mathematics is a waste of time, yet we use it every day; whether it’s in the supermarket or balancing our bank accounts.  The Board has developed a HSC course which teaches and assesses these essential skills (General Mathematics) and will soon incorporate it into the common part of both streams of Mathematics (see below).

However, general literacy and English skills are not the focus of any of the ATAR-eligible, board-developed HSC English courses.  Skills like expressing ideas in various ways like through speeches, reports or essays; or comprehension skills from these works.  This is what a compulsory English subject should teach and assess on — at least in part.

The Fundamentals in English course does explore these skills; but studying that subject will make you ATAR ineligible (unless you intend to repeat Year 11 and 12 studying the other English course).

It’s not to say that the current English courses should not exist — it should!  But don’t make that part the compulsory subject!

Common scale for General Mathematics and other Mathematics courses

Unlike the Standard and Advanced English courses, students currently studying General Mathematics 2 and other Mathematics courses (2 unit, Extension 1 and Extension 2) are scaled independently of one another. This encourages high achieving students to study the General Mathematics course rather than the more advanced Mathematics courses to score higher marks in the HSC and also potentially a higher ATAR.

The changes announced will see the syllabus of both Mathematics streams share common components and a common paper (much like the Area of Study module in English) to enable students from the two course streams to be reported on a common scale.

I think this is a logical move and also, long awaited.  The current Mathematics course lacked focus on some relatively basic Mathematical skills like statistics.  Renewed focus on these modules and sharing a common scale will encourage more capable students to take up the more advanced Mathematics subject.