The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.

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December 2011

Information and communications technology

Research fibre optic network up and running in Cape Town

Thirty-six research institutions in the Western Cape are now connected to the South African National Fibre Network (SANReN) with 10 gigabits-per-second’s worth of bandwidth at their fingertips.

This follows the completion of the Cape Town metro ring in mid-November 2011. The 334.6 km Cape Town link constitutes a dark fibre network installed by Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), who was awarded the contract for this part of the SANReN network through a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process. DFA is a pioneering fibre optic network company established by Community Investment Ventures (CIV) and Remgro.

Upfront investment in the Cape Town metro ring fibre totalled R28.18 m, while equipment costs came to R20 m.

SANReN is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as part of its investment in cyberinfrastructure; the project is implemented by the CSIR’s information and communications technology unit and operated by TENET.

Institutions set to benefit from this high bandwidth connectivity are the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s campuses in Bellville, District Six, Granger Bay, Groote Schuur Hospital, Mowbray, Thomas Patuli Campus, Tygerberg, Somerset Square, Otical and Barc; the CSIR’s regional offices in Rosebank (including the Centre for High Performance Computing) and Stellenbosch; the SA National Antarctic Programme; the Cape Town campus of the Human Sciences Research Council; the Faure campus of ithemba Labs; the main campus of the SA Museum; the main campus of the Medical Research Council; the National Library of South Africa in Cape Town; the Cape Town campus of the South African Astronomical Observatory; Stellenbosch University’s Business School, main campus and Tygerberg Medical School; the University of Cape Town’s Hiddingh campus, Graduate School of Business (GSB), Liesbeek Gardens, upper campus, Medical School, Mowbray Cottage Hospital, Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Rochester House, Sports Science Institute, Grootte Schuur Residence and Rondeberg Residence; the University of the Western Cape’s main campus and the Cape Town offices of the Square Kilometre Array.

“The impact of SANReN will be of strategic transformation to research in South Africa,” noted Sakkie Janse van Rensburg, Executive Director ICTS, University of Cape Town, who was speaking at the event to celebrate the launch of Phase 1 of SANReN on 16 November 2011 at the Spier Estate near Stellenbosch. The context of e-Research in which information and communications technology is used to “facilitate and enable collaborative research, smaller niche research, research requiring advanced computing and research data” makes SANReN particularly relevant in promoting collaborative research benefits.

What comes next?
With the Phase 1 feather in its cap, the SANReN team has already started on Phase 2. Utilising the investment by the DST and the Department of Higher Education Institutions, the team will work on connecting most rural and remotely located research sites and institutions. This, states Dr Daniel Adams, acting Director General: Emerging Research Areas and Infrastructure of the DST, is vital to achieve equal opportunities and access for quality teaching and learning, and competitive and collaborative research in South Africa.

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