Fiber optic-based research & education network now spans the Pacific

Aug. 1, 2001
Aug. 1, 2001--Collaboration among researchers and students in Australia and North America took a giant leap forward as the Australian Academic and Research Network activated its trans-Pacific optical fiber connection to the Pacific Northwest Gigapop.

Collaboration among researchers and students in Australia with those in North America took a giant leap forward as the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) activated its trans-Pacific optical fiber connection to the Pacific Northwest Gigapop (PNWGP) at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, USA. The Pacific Northwest Gigapop is a primary interconnection point for advanced research and education networks in Canada, the US, and now the Pacific Rim.

Dual 155 Megabit per second connections traversing physically diverse paths allow the Australian research community to communicate quickly and efficiently with researchers, and access advanced research resources and apparatus in the Canada and the US.

The dual paths, running Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), provide redundant capacity while retaining the ability to load balance and potentially burst to 310Mbps. The network also provides Quality-of-Service and Virtual Private Network capabilities.

"Having optical fiber circuits connected directly to advanced networks of North America via the Pacific Northwest Gigapop provides enormous opportunities for collaborative programs," said George McLaughlin, Executive Director of AARNet. "The most significant achievement in bridging this trans-oceanic digital-divide will be our newly acquired abilities to traffic in high quality remote sense, video, sound, and multimedia material as well as in huge scientific datasets and other demanding digital objects like medical images. This will make virtual neighbors out of our partner networks and resources across the world. Exploiting such mechanisms to develop relationships between researchers is key to fostering and sustaining excellence in research, education, and economic development."

The first connections through the Pacific Northwest Gigapop will be to CA*net 3 and Internet2 backbone networks, the advanced research and education networks of Canada and the United States, respectively. "In addition," McLaughlin added, "we will obtain immediate very high speed and lowest latency access to the research and education networks and the interconnected computational and information resources throughout the Pacific Northwest and California."

Early deployment of multicast multimedia connections across the new links will allow Australia's participation in SC2001, a global technical conference on Grid technology and applications. The host site will be in Denver, Colorado, USA; however, Sydney, Australia will be one of a number of constellation sites throughout the world participating and contributing sessions to this unique global event.

Researchers in areas such as bioinformatics, satellite imaging, and on-line health applications have joint programs ready to take advantage of the new infrastructure.

The experience of AARNet's national deployment of Voice-over-IP will provide a useful framework to build on developments in new multimedia applications.

The trans-Pacific fiber optic cable is part of the Southern Cross Cable Network with US landing and backhaul to PNWGP provided by WCI Cable and with the Australian backhaul to AARNet provided by Powertel. The cable spans 30,500 km under the Pacific with landing sites in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Oregon, and California. It took 19 months to lay the cable.

About AARNet:

AARNet Pty Ltd is a not-for-profit company that operates the AARNet2 network, providing Internet services to all 37 Australian universities, CSIRO Australia and their research and education partners. AARNet has a national and international focus with access to the global research and education networks through the Pacific Northwest Gigapop. AARNet is also a member of the GrangeNet consortium which will build a 10Gbps backbone in Australia and develop advanced network and grid services to support advanced applications. For more information, visit

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