The launch of SuperJanet4 means the first stage of the high-speed network's transformation from a higher education research tool to the backbone of a national e-learning grid has been completed.
SuperJanet4, created by the United Kingdom Education and Research Networking Association, will provide high-speed services to all higher education and further education colleges as well as to 30,000 schools. It will also supply network services to the University for Industry.
It will encourage high-performance, cost-effective education tools and help more institutions to collaborate. It will support distance learning and remote teaching initiatives, while speeding up access to information available on Janet and the National Learning Network, which covers the UfI's LearnDirect project. It will also provide the bedrock for collaborative work in virtual reality as well as accelerating work on the next generation internet applications between Janet and Internet2 in the United States.
Geoff McMullen, chief executive of Ukerna, said that the network had achieved the capacity target of 2.5 gigabits per second and would reach 20Gb/s by the end of the year.
Mr McMullen said: "Ukerna is committed to providing the whole education and research sector with the means of promoting the concept of lifelong learning. Crucial to new applications are the provision of high-quality video services, both videoconferencing and video streaming, and we are able to demonstrate our success in this area today."
Michael Wills, minister for learning and technology, launched the network upgrade at University College London. He praised Ukerna, the Joint Information Systems Committee and Worldcom for delivering the project on time and within budget.
He said: "The leap from a 155 megabits per second core network capacity to an initial 2.5Gb/s network capacity -and with additional growth built in - is a giant one, enormously improving the way we communicate. And it is through communication that we accomplish the most -the greater the speed and efficiency, the better the opportunities and rewards.
"SuperJanet4 has a vital role in ensuring that our further education, higher education and research communities accomplish all that they set out to do," he said.
Tony Hey, director of e-science at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, welcomed the upgrade: "It will enable the development of a high-performance UK grid for distributed computing and visualisation to the laboratory workstation.
"It will also allow UK developments to be integrated with similar developments in Europe and the US. Large-scale research collaborations on an international scale will become much easier. This is good news for UK science and will keep us at the forefront of worldwide developments in data distribution and collaborative e-science."