A new ‘dark fibre’ network will help researchers develop the technologies that will power the future of the Internet.
The Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) has today announced that it will provide £2.5m for a new National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS) which will enable a consortium of universities to access a dark fibre network using dedicated optical fibre connections.
Dark fibre is privately operated optical fibre that users can access at the optical data level, rather than the electrical data level used in conventional communications network, which will enable researchers to experiment with novel communication techniques such as high order optical modulation or quantum communication.
The fibre connections, made up of some 800km of single mode fibre together with control and monitoring systems, will be provided to NDFIS by the Joint Academic Network, Janet and builds on previous work carried out by the consortium using a fixed path dark fibre network, Janet Aurora.
NDFIS Director Professor Alwyn Seeds from University College London (UCL) said: “We are delighted that the EPSRC and Janet have enabled the creation of the new National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service. This will enable UK researchers to remain at the forefront of technology research for the future internet.”¬¬
Following a competitive tendering process, the five-year contract for NDFIS has been awarded to a consortium including University College London, as the prime contractor, and the Universities of Southampton, Cambridge and Bristol.
The network will connect these universities to other research networks around the world, via telecommunication facilities in London and will be engineered with equipment that can be configured remotely and dynamically.
It will be an example of a Software Defined Network (SDN) and researchers in the UK will be able to access the new network, to be named Aurora2, both directly by placing equipment at consortium sites and remotely using the Janet Lightpath service.
As well as supporting research on the future core optical network, which underpins the internet, NDFIS will enable research with experimental metro networks and support wireless backhaul networks for future wireless systems, such as 5G.
The network will also be open to the university’s industry partners to test new components, architectures and ways of communicating.
Professor Periklis Petropoulos at the University of Southampton said: “The internet is playing an increasingly pervasive role in our lives and our expectations of what we can use it for are always growing.
“As we use it more often, on more devices, in more data intensive ways, we are putting strain on the internet’s existing capacity. This network will allow our researchers at the University of Southampton to experiment with new technologies that will shape a faster, future proof internet, capable of meeting our demands both now and in years to come.”