Super Janet is backbone for lifelong learning

June 23, 2000

The foundation for a high-performance broadband network, that could provide the path to wider lifelong learning in the United Kingdom, was laid in London on Monday.

Geoff McMullen, chief executive of the United Kingdom Education and Research Networking Association (Ukerna), and Lucy Woods, senior vice-president of European Operations at communications company WorldCom, signed the network backbone contract for SuperJanet 4 at a Westminster conference.

Bob Day, Ukerna's network development director, said that SuperJanet 4 would provide a 2.5-gigabit per second backbone for services from December, scaling with increased demand to 20-Gbits/s over the next few years. At present, SuperJanet provides a 155-Mbits/s backbone.

Dr Day said: "SuperJanet 4 will harness the power of state-of-the-art optical communications to the needs of the education and research communities in the UK. It will provide the bandwidth needed to enable the next generation of both the learning and research processes.

"We have projected 2.5Gbits/s as the present requirement, but we have taken an informed guess on what might be needed. We have built in 'future-proofing' to make sure we stay ahead of demand."

Dr Day said that up to 900 institutions would be accessing services through the network, with more to be added in the next year. SuperJanet 4 will connect all higher education, further education and research council sites throughout the UK, putting them at the forefront of network technology. It will also provide international connectivity.

"We are also looking at how to widen access to the network beyond the college or institution boundary," Dr Day said.

Michael Wills, the minister for learning and technology, endorsed the agreement, the largest single network contract for higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, at the conference.

The higher education funding councils, through the Joint Information Systems Committee, have earmarked about Pounds 50 million for the period to March 2002 for SuperJanet 4.

Mr Wills said: "The benefits to the education community are immeasurable as SuperJanet 4 speeds up access to Janet, where a vast range of information and services are available.

"It will enable information and communications technology to deliver lifelong learning at all levels, while retaining the leading-edge performance needed to support the UK research sector."

Mrs Woods said that it was a strategic commercial imperative for technology companies to cultivate an intimate relationship with the academic community.

Ian Halliday, chair of the Heads of the Research Councils, welcomed SuperJanet 4. He said that much university research would depend crucially on access to information and data, particularly the genome revolution, global warming, social surveys, astronomy, engineering and particle physics.

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