Researchers and students across Europe are set to benefit from an upgrade to the GEANT research and education network, which will allow around 40 million researchers and millions of students to collaborate using a connection of up to 1 terabit.
Investment by the EU and Europe's NRENs will enable migration to the new infrastructure, which uses the latest transmission and switching technologies. These are able to support capacities of up to 2Tbps across the core network and are designed to "future proof” Europe's critical network up to 2020.
Initially, 500Gbps capacity will be rolled out which "will allow individual users to transfer data at speeds of up to 100Gbps”. GEANT, which is built and operated by Cambridge-based organisation DANTE, announced that they have awarded four-year contracts to Infinera and Imtech, the former will supply the optical transmission technology whilst the latter will provide data packet switching using Juniper.
Whilst a one terabit connection sounds like the stuff of dreams for many businesses and technology enthusiasts, the true "speed” won't actually reach 1Tbps for end users. As mentioned above, a 500Gbps connection will actually only deliver 100Gbps to students and researchers at the point where they access the connection.
Internet speed is often the focus of a number of misconceptions which have been somewhat played upon by ISPs in order to capture more customers. This results in customers complaining about user experience, despite thinking and being led to believe that 'faster connectivity' will improve their browsing experience.
The GEANT network will enable researchers and students to transfer data at a faster rate, on a higher capacity and thus make collaboration between institutions quicker. This is necessary due to the demand for data transfer being seen by research institutions, which is increasing rapidly.
In a joint statement, Matthew Scott and Niels Hersoug, joint General Managers of DANTE said: "GÉANT's objective is to underpin European research and this major new investment will ensure we continue to provide a network and services that meet changing needs. Our new network will meet the requirement for rapidly growing bandwidth from the Research and Education community, providing a scalable platform well into the future for research collaboration across Europe and beyond, as well as acting as a testbed for the latest technology and innovation.”
It's unlikely that the consumer market will see similar connection speeds in the near future though. Internet speeds are a bone of contention for many consumers as ISPs have in the past misrepresented available speeds and the benefit higher speeds have for their customers.
However, new Ofcom regulations have begun to address these issues to ensure that ISPs give transparent and understandable information around connection speeds.