MCI WorldCom is to supply all 800 UK higher and further educational facilities with a £50m high-speed network capable of delivering multimedia applications to students over the Internet.
SuperJanet 4, the latest version of the private Joint Academic Network (Janet), is described "fundamental to what this country can become", by Michael Wills, Minister for Learning and Technology, who endorsed the signing of the contract between WorldCom and the United Kingdom Education & Research Networking Association (Ukerna).
The network is being funded by the Higher Education Funding Council, which has allocated up to #50m between April 1999 and March 2002 for its development. The initial 2.5Gbps core network will go live in December this year, with all universities expected to be using it by March 2001.
A series of upgrades over the next two years are planned to further speed up SuperJanet 4 into a 20Gbps network by the summer of 2002. Observers predict that the technology will spread from academia into commercial applications within a few years, boosting the speed of the Internet.
Research programmes said to be boosted by the new network include genetic mapping, global warming, social surveys, astronomy, engineering and particle physics, as well as areas where video technologies can be used, such as medical teaching.
By the time it is completed, Ukerna says the network will allow all educational institutions to wire their campus buildings. The group's aim is for each desktop user to have at least a 1Mbps connection to Janet, and thus the Internet, by summer 2002.
"We've planned for a rapid expansion of the user base and in multimedia applications such as video and music to be delivered over the Web. SuperJanet 4 will provide the bandwidth to enable both the learning and research processes," said Bob Day, Ukerna network development director.
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