CSIR courts telco partnership

Jacob Nthoiwa
By Jacob Nthoiwa, ITWeb journalist.
Johannesburg, 26 Oct 2010

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR) Meraka Institute has selected a Neotel and Broadband Infraco partnership to install a 10Gbps network to the South African Large Telescope (SALT) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA) sites in the Northern Cape.

In a statement, the CSIR says the selection is the outcome of a tender process that was done in consultation with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). “The tenders were evaluated taking into account price, BEE criteria and technical considerations,” it adds.

This network is a component of the South African National Research Network (Sanren), which is funded by the DST as part of its national cyber infrastructure initiative. Sanren is implemented by the CSIR. The network will connect both SALT and SKA sites to Sanren's national backbone network in Cape Town.

The Neotel and Broadband Infraco partnership will deliver end-to-end connectivity and services required between Cape Town, SALT and SKA at a total value of approximately R100 million. It is estimated that the period for completion of this project will be six to 10 months.

According to CSIR head of cyber infrastructure group Professor Colin Wright, the new network will enable researchers at SALT and SKA to transfer their data locally and internationally.

“It meets the requirements of the current phase of the SKA project. The partnership has provided the CSIR with a solution that will address the requirements of the site,” he adds.

The chief director of Emerging Research Areas and Infrastructure at DST, Dr Daniel Adams says the installation of the circuit to the SKA site close to the town of Carnavon will provide further proof that SA can provide the bandwidth needed to fulfil the requirements of the full SKA, and will serve as a significant boost to the South African SKA bid.

This development paves the way for international collaborators to actively make use of the facilities that will be provided by the sites, says NRF CEO and president Dr Albert van Jaarsveld.

“With the recent successful installation of seven dishes at the SKA site, the 10 Gbps link could not have come at a better time,” he says.

Researchers are eager to get access to the data that are being produced at these sites, he notes. “The broadband link will enable not only South African, but international research to have near real-time access to the data.

“Furthermore, the broadband link demonstrates our ability to invest heavily in scientific infrastructure in support of our desire to win the SKA bid.”

The SALT telescope currently makes use of a 4Mbps Telkom circuit to Cape Town, which was commissioned by Sanren at the end of 2009 to provide an interim solution to SALT connectivity, CSIR states. “Subsequently, the Sanren team performed a due diligence on connectivity options for both SKA and SALT.

While the temporary solution allows researchers to make use of the telescope, it does not fulfil the future requirements for SALT,” it says.