South African universities and public research organisations will be connected to each other at a minimum speed of 10Gbps in just a few years, says deputy minister for higher education Hlengiwe Mkhize.
She adds that this is as a result of at least a R886 million investment into the South African National Research and Education Network (Sanren) project since 2007.
SA is ranked at 61 out of 138 countries worldwide on the network readiness index, according to the department. It notes that government has made significant investments in ICT infrastructure to turn the situation around, use ICT more to benefit the higher education sector and improve the country's global rating on the index.
“At least R500 million has been allocated for the rollout of a national wireless broadband network by Sentech, and this will be specifically focused on rural areas. The intention is to connect learning institutions located in rural areas to each other and to other institutions in the country, while at the same time fostering collaboration and exchange of information,” says Mkhize.
She says an additional R300 million has been allocated to upgrade the country's existing broadband, increase the network's capacity, and reach and provide a backbone for Sentech's broadband network.
“This is in addition to the R886 million that has been invested in the Sanren project over the past five years, and this is the country's broadband connectivity network for public research institutions and universities which is also linked to the international network.”
Sanren is a high-speed network aiming to connect more than 200 research and tertiary sites around the country with international research and education organisations around the globe.
The network architecture consists of a national backbone connecting Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London on a 10Gbps ring network. Metro rings are being installed in Johannesburg, Tshwane, eThekwini and Cape Town. A second phase of the Sanren project is extending the backbone to more remote sites including Polokwane, Grahamstown, Makhado and Mafikeng.
By the end of 2012, a total of R783 million is expected to have been invested by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in the complete Sanren network rollout. This includes the national backbone network, metropolitan area networks, backbone network extensions, connections to the South African Large Telescope and Square Kilometre Array sites, and associated equipment costs.
Dr Daniel Adams, chief director of emerging research areas and infrastructure at the DST, says one of the fundamental goals is to build a world-class network across SA, to prove to researchers around the globe that the country can offer them the same connectivity as any research network on the planet.