A wireless microwave network is transmitting data equivalent to the contents of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in a second between Northern Ireland's three leading research organisations.
Donated by Nortel Networks, the Pounds 1 million network is the first of its kind in Europe and the first in higher education.It forms part of the Ulster University's new centre for communications engineering. It links with Queen's University Belfast and to Nortel Network's campus at Monkstown.
A showcase for how universities and industry can work together for their mutual benefit, the centre's high-speed synchronous digital hierarchy network can transmit data at the rate of 622 Mbits per second.
It required a special licence from the Department of Trade and Industry. It will enable academics to carry out both teaching and research, as well as offering additional bandwidth for applied research applications.
The network is a powerful tool for the Jigsaw research project that involves the two universities and is co-funded by Nortel and Northern Ireland's industrial research and technology unit's Start programme.
Peter Schuddeboom, vice-president for international optical networks product development for Nortel, said the new facility further confirmed the company's commitment to and confidence in Northern Ireland and its people.
"The new Centre for Communications Engineering will build closer links between Nortel Networks, the University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast, and help encourage Northern Ireland's engineering pioneers."
John McFall, education minister until the new administration takes over, has praised the "high-calibre" collaboration between the two universities and Nortel.
"In addition to its unique value as a research tool, the CCE considerably increases Northern Ireland's skill base in communications engineering, and provides a teaching facility without parallel in Europe," he said.
Ulster University vice-chancellor Gerry McKenna said the partnership would be a model for future projects. "This exciting new centre helps us link our long tradition of communications research and teaching in a dynamic and innovative way," he said.