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.

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Qantas to sign trial satellite product with NBN for Wi-Fi

nbn co and Qantas set to begin a proof-of-concept agreement to test the delivery of a on-board Wi-Fi from February 2017

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released its test agreement with Qantas allowing them to test a “Proof-of-Concept Aeronautical Mobile Satellite Service” on a Qantas test aircraft.

The proof-of-concept test is expected to help guide the development of nbn’s Satellite Mobility Product expected to launch in the third quarter of 2017.

Qantas has already begun preliminary engineering testing of its proposed on-board Wi-Fi product on a Boeing 737 aircraft (VH-XZB). The national carrier intends to partner with service provider ViaSat to deliver on-board Internet connectivity once the mobility product becomes available.

The trial product will be delivered over a Layer 3 VPN connection over the NBN Satellite Network. nbn will be responsible for the network between the Air Network Interface (ANI) located on the test aircraft’s Air Terminal and the Mobility Network-Network Interface (M-NNI) located at the NBN Point of Interconnect (POI).

As part of the trial, the network speed will be limited to 20 megabits per second for each aircraft on at most two aircrafts concurrently. The connection will also be limited to agreed flight corridors.

Earlier analysis by jxeeno blog has concluded that on-board Wi-Fi products are likely to have little or no impact on the congestion of beams given the short duration of time each aircraft spends under a single beam.

The proof-of-concept agreement is set to kick in from 1st February 2017 and is expected to run until 1st September 2017 unless terminated early or extended. However, Qantas is yet to officially announce its public launch date for the on-board Wi-Fi service.

nbn™ logo (large)

nbn introduces DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs this month

No high-speed tiers to accompany launch of higher speed network

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, is set to begin installing new HFC Network Termination Devices (NTDs) at the end of this month to allow them to connect to the upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 network.

nbn’s NTD is a customised CM8200B DOCSIS 3.1 modem from Arris, who successfully won a tender to supply the network equipment.

nbn's new HFC Network Termination Device capable of DOCSIS 3.1
nbn’s new HFC Network Termination Device capable of DOCSIS 3.1 (Source: nbn co)

nbn had initially planned to begin deploying its DOCSIS 3.1 NTDs in December 2016. This has been pushed back by a month to the end of January 2017, with the company issuing an amendment to its Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA2).

In their notification letter to Access Seekers, nbn states that it intends to “introduce the new CM8200B (DOCSIS 3.1) HFC-NTD deploying on all HFC installations from end January 2017”.


No speed increase despite upgrade

Despite touting the speed capabilities of the new DOCSIS 3.1 modems, nbn will not launch new speed tiers to accompany the launch of the new modems.

In November 2015, nbn’s Chief Technology Officer penned a blog post saying that new modems by Arris will be capable of delivering “a stunning 5Gbps downstream and 2Gbps upstream”.

However, the maximum speed tier nbn will offer over the HFC network will remain at 100/40 Mbps. The January 2017 Integrated Deployment Plan also shows no future plans to introduce higher speed tiers already available the NBN Fibre network.

DOCSIS 3.1 promises to provide improved network performance and speeds through increased modulation orders and wider spectrum utilisation.

The new NTD will also have a second Ethernet port, however, the port will be disabled and covered by a sticker at launch.

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

Say goodbye uni concession stickers for good

2016 saw the phasing out of concession foils common to uni students around the Greater Sydney region. Students commuting within the Opal-enabled network were no longer given a concession foil sticker.  A student identification card and Concession Opal card would suffice as concession proof on the network.

However, the sticker foil still remained for those of us who wanted to travel on NSW TrainLink’s regional services. As part of the fare rules, students must present their booked ticket with their Tertiary Student Concession Card or ID Card with a valid foil.

According to the Transport for New South Wales website, the tertiary concession foil will be phased out for good next year.  Starting 1st April 2017, tertiary students will have to order a Transport Concession Entitlement Card to prove their concession entitlement when travelling on regional services.

 

Transport Concession Entitlement Card is coming in April 2017 for Tertiary Concession Holders
Transport Concession Entitlement Card is coming in April 2017 for Tertiary Concession Holders

Currently, this card is available to Job Seekers, Approved Centrelink Customers and Ex-Defence with Disability.  More information about the card’s availability will be made available from February 2017.

Don’t stress: bus timetables aren’t being “scrapped”

Timetables are set to become more dynamic with on-demand complementary shuttle services

Yesterday, the Minister for Transport announced that Transport for NSW will trial “on-demand” public transport next year as part of their Future Transport Roadmap. A number of media outlets reported “New South Wales Government to scrap bus timetables” based on initiatives promised to “transform the mass transit network”.

As one would expect, a flurry of fury followed after the announcement. Punters complained of the inability for current buses to stay within their current timetables as it is. How are they to deliver services quality “without a timetable”?

I don’t think the media did a great job at explaining what the plans were. So, let’s break it down. There are two parts to this puzzle:

  1. Timetables are becoming more dynamic
  2. On-demand services are being introduced

The truth is, timetables aren’t going way but are becoming more flexible. There are also additional on-demand services to help make the trip to timetabled services more efficient.

Hub and spoke model

You may have heard of the hub-and-spoke model. That’s where commuters take a short service close to their homes to a major transport hub to reach their final destination.

This reduces the number of low demand, point-to-point services required to get commuters to and from their destinations whilst still maintaining flexible route options.

The challenge with the current system is that spoke services (the short hops between homes and hubs) have long routes within the suburbs to get to as many pick up points as possible. This means that it could take a long time for commuters to get from their home to the hub regardless of whether all the pick up points have passengers.

On-demand spoke services

The on-demand trial that was being mentioned is about improving commuter connections to and from transport hubs. As the Future Transport Roadmap says:

The future of personalised transport will involve customers being able to book flexible, on-demand local services to make first- and last-mile connections to and from mass transit hubs.

Page 41, Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2016

On-demand services would complement existing “spoke” bus routes with routes being optimised for booked demand.

Diagram showing how a hub and spoke model with on-demand services could work
Diagram showing how a hub and spoke model with on-demand services could work

On-demand example:

Imagine the resident living in the middle of the suburbs, around a 15 minute drive from the train station. Currently, the options may be for the resident to drive their car to the station and commute to work. However, parking spots are limited.

Catching a bus is also an option. However, the closest bus stop may be a 10 minute walk away and only runs during peak hours. Worse still, it’s a bus service which is route is long and stops at many locations within the suburb before reaching the train station.

The on-demand public transport model tries to solve this. A commuter can “book” what is effectively a shuttle service between their home and the closest train station in advance. The route and times for this on-demand service will be generated continuously based on who’s booked a service.

Dynamic timetabling in trunk routes

It’s something that Sydney Trains have been doing for years. Despite having seemingly static timetables, Sydney Trains timetables are generated at least once a day to account for things like track work, special events and “operational issues”.

Some bus routes are also brought in especially in time for special events. For example, an example I know well is the Central to Moore Park shuttle during major sporting events.

The promise made in the Future Transport roadmap is that these dynamic timetables will reach more modes of transport (including buses). These timetables will also extend in reach, modelling patterns based on weather, demands based on day of week.

Using the supply/demand insights, develop an algorithm that optimises the timetable for day-of-week, weather and planned/unplanned events

Page 88, Future Transport Technology Roadmap 2016

It’s also about being able to generate new routes and increased frequency when new demands arise. With the Opal data that Transport for NSW has on their hands, they could potentially generate new high demand, point-to-point routes to cater for new businesses opening up or when new developments are built.

Conclusion

Don’t stress: timetables aren’t going away. They remain very important for the operation of transport services.

The good news is that the timetables will likely be adjusted more frequently based on demand on each route at particular times.

On-demand services will likely complement existing spoke services to make them more efficient and convenient for commuters.

Hopefully, this will less crowded services and quicker journey times into the future.

NBN to rebate for higher speeds

Service providers may be eligible for a rebate to upgrade existing users to higher speed tiers

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, will introduce a three-month credit scheme designed to promote the uptake of higher speed tiers on its network.  The “Step Up AVC Credit” will see service providers refunded up to $33 over 3 months for upgrading existing customers to a higher speed tier.

End users must stay on the new tier for a minimum of 90 days to be eligible for the credit.

Rebates range from $9 to $33 over 3 months:

  • 12/1 Mbps to 25/5 Mbps: $9 over 3 months
  • 12/1 Mbps to 50/20 Mbps: $21 over 3 months
  • 12/1 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps: $33 over 3 months
  • 25/5 Mbps to 50/20 Mbps: $21 over 3 months
  • 25/5 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps: $33 over 3 months
  • 50/20 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps: $21 over 3 months

In an effort to reduce congestion and lower CVC congestion, the credit has strict guidelines about the state of congestion within the network.  Any connectivity virtual circuit connected to end users applying for the “Step Up AVC Credit” cannot exceed an average of 95% of network utilisation for 4 consecutive 15 minute intervals in any 24 hour period.

During this campaign, nbn will also co-fund marketing activities associated with the “Step Up AVC Credit” at $1.50 for each eligible AVC.

The scheme will start in November 2016 and finish at the end of March 2017.

[Source: NBN Co]

NBN Fibre to the Node Trial at Umina Beach

NBN to remediate business connections over copper

But will lock you in for 12 months if the existing copper line isn’t up to scratch

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, will begin offering line remediation to business services unable to reach their committed speeds over the copper network.

Business level services delivered over Traffic Class 2 (TC-2) have a committed information rate (CIR) which effectively guarantees a connection’s transfer rate.  Typical residential services are provisioned over Traffic Class 4, which has a peak information rate (PIR) describing the “up to” transfer rate achievable over the line.

The company is already offering TC-2 services over its FTTN and FTTB network with symmetrical transfer speeds of 5, 10 or 20 Mbps.  However, according to the current Wholesale Broadband Agreement (WBA), the company is currently not committing to its Committed Information Rate — stating:

“the actual Information Rate experienced by Customer, Downstream Customer or the relevant End User, may each be significantly less than the downstream CIR and upstream CIR of the bandwidth profile ordered by Customer in respect of the relevant Ordered Product”

According to the revised WBA on its website, the company will enable customers to submit a trouble ticket to remediate the copper line.  However, nbn will also require the end user to take up the service for at least 12 months or will have to pay an early disconnection or modification fee.

NBN will charge an early termination or modification fee if customers had their line remediated
NBN will charge an early termination or modification fee if customers had their business line remediated

Increased FTTN performance objectives

nbn is also increasing its network availability operational target on the FTTN Network from 99.70% to 99.80%.  The agreement states that “operational targets are non-binding and aspirational”.

The new wholesale broadband agreement will become effective in early December 2016.

 

Optimising your HSC study with the Question Matrix

It’s crunch time.  With just over a week left until English Paper 1 kicks off, it’s more important than ever to optimise your study pattern.

If you ever find yourself short on time studying and want to re-enforce the fundamentals, HSCninja can help you prioritise your study.  The Question Matrix can give you an “at a glance” view of the number of marks allocated to each HSC syllabus topic in the past few years.  From this, you can prioritise your study based on what the Board of Studies has examined in the past.

Example: HSC Physics – Motors and Generators

In this example, we’ll look at HSC Physics Motors and Generators.  Similar matrices are also available for all topics in Mathematics, Physics and Biology.

Question Matrix on HSCninja for the Motors and Generators module in HSC Physics
Question Matrix on HSCninja for the Motors and Generators module in HSC Physics

 

Based on this matrix, we can see that the Board has placed heavy emphasis on the first topic: 9.3.1 – Motors and magnetic forces. An average of 9.9 marks has allocated to this syllabus topic for the past 7 years.  The least emphasis is placed on 9.3.5 – AC motors with an average on 3.3 marks over the past 7 years.

However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t study for AC motors!  You can see that the Board is still very likely to examine you on the topic, it just affects fewer marks.  So it’s all just a balancing act.

A good strategy may be to place a suitable amount of time revising teach topic based on how many marks each topic has historically been worth.  But at the end of the day, the more familiar you are with material across all topics — the more likely you are to get higher marks.

nbn launches Cell Site Access Service

Company does away with CVC, but will charge two pricing levels based on metro or regional classification

The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has released an interim agreement for its Cell Site Access Service (CSAS).  As previously reported, this product is designed for mobile service providers to connect its cell towers through the National Broadband Network fibre network.

The agreement includes a price list, indicating nbn’s intention to provide cell towers with blended traffic class product including a traffic class 1 and traffic class 2 access virtual circuit (TC-1/TC-2 AVC).  All access products include a 5 Mbps TC-1 AVC, with varying amounts of TC-2 bandwidth from 50 Mbps to 900 Mbps.

Unlike the residential/business focused product offered by nbn (NEBS), the CSAS price list and product specification bares no mention of the contentious connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) — the charge imposed by nbn to allow traffic to be carried over from the NBN to the provider’s network.

For the first time, nbn has offered differential pricing based on the classification of the point of interconnect.  Access components in metro and outer metro areas will be charged at a lower rate compared with regional areas.

For example, the base product which includes 5 Mbps TC-1 and 50 Mbps TC-2 comes in at $910 in metro and outer-metro areas.  However, the access charge will increase to $1,245 for cell towers connected to regional points of interconnect.

NBN Cell Site Access Service - AVC Pricing Table
NBN Cell Site Access Service – AVC Pricing Table, Source: nbn co ltd

CSAS Network Termination Device

nbn will be providing a specialised network termination device (NTD) for customers of the Cell Site Access Service.  Unlike the standard NTD available for residential connections, the CSAS NTD will only have one User Network Interface (UNI) which is accessible through a copper or optical port.

The customer is expected to produce 3 RU of rack space for the installation of the NBN fibre tray, power supply and NTD.

NBN CSAS NTD Layout, Source: nbn co ltd
NBN CSAS NTD Layout, Source: nbn co ltd

 

You can find the CSAS pricing list and product descriptions on the nbn website.

Updated 23rd September 2016: to include that CVC appears is not mentioned.