On Friday, 3 February 2012, Stellenbosch University’s Information Technology department switched over to the long awaited SANReN connection. We are now able to provide users with faster internet via higher internet bandwidth.
The South African Research Network (SANReN) is part of a South African government initiative to ensure that South African researchers have access to the best infrastructure for optimal productivity. It will therefore provide its clients with both connectivity to the world’s research networks as well as commodity Internet access.
When Seacom was launched in July 2009 the 1.27 Tbps submarine fibre-optic cable system promised to provide South Africa with an abundance of affordable international bandwidth. While the effects of lower international bandwidth prices took time to filter down to consumers, ADSL bandwidth rates started plummeting in late 2009 culminating in affordable uncapped ADSL services in March 2010.
One of the biggest benefactors of Seacom’s landing was however not businesses, ISPs or consumers, but rather TENET and the Universities which it serves.
TENET, a non-profit organization which runs a national research and education network of 82 campuses of 44 institutions within SA, signed a deal with Seacom in 2007 which provides them the use of 10Gbps wavelength from Seacom’s Mtunzini landing station, in KwaZulu-Natal to London.
This international bandwidth came at a preferential rate which had a massive impact on the overall availability and use of bandwidth by educational institutions.
The network operated by TENET includes a 10 Gbps circuit to London on the SEACOM cable system, backhaul circuits from the SEACOM landing station in Mtunzini, the SANReN 10 Gbps backbone, SANReN fibre rings in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, the GEN3 MPLS network and Metro-E circuits provided by Neotel, IP Connect bandwidth into the ADSL cloud and various optical fibre and wireless access circuits.
The SANReN network is a high-speed network dedicated to research traffic and research into research networking and broadband infrastructures. It is being rolled out in a phased manner and will connect up to 204 sites across the country with research networks hosting over 3 000 research and education organisations from all over the world in the first two phases, which commenced in 2007.
With the switch to SANReN speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s are guaranteed. More bandwidth at the same cost will therefore be available to Stellenbosch University. Initially international Internet connectivity will be provided over the SEACOM submarine fibre cable, in a deal unrelated to the original SANReN RFP.
As of September 2008, SANReN has connected three higher educational institutes in Gauteng: the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg, the University of Pretoria, the Tshwane University of Technology and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Stellenbosch University has now been added to this list. With further phases of the project coming on line, most of the public universities in the country will be included.
In real terms, Stellenbosch University is paying less for a better service and more bandwidth. With the arrival of SEACOM and even more so with the implementation of SANREN, national costs are now extremely low and everyone, not only the University, will be benefiting from latest developments. Part of the SANREN inisiative is provisioning 1Gig links from Stellenbosch to Business School and the Faculty of Health Sciences.