The battle of the bandwidth

15 June 2009

Internet access speed remains one of the biggest sources of complaints on campus and UCT has been waiting for an improvement, expected this month. This massive increase in bandwidth availability will be brought about by a combination of the Seacom cable landing in South Africa and the linking of South African tertiary institutions via SANReN (the South African Research Network).

Unfortunately, delivery dates have slipped. Information from TENET indicates that UCT may only see a significant increase in bandwidth by March 2010. That's the expected date that UCT will switch from Neotel infrastructure to SANReN infrastructure.

"Disappointing though this may be in the short term, it will definitely be worth waiting for, so great is the increase in bandwidth availability and speed expected to be," said Sakkie Janse van Rensburg, executive director of Information and Communication Technology Services.

According to the Meraka Institute, who are contracted to deploy and manage SANReN, their first priority is to provide a very high-speed, nationwide backbone network with Points of Presence in all major cities. As regards connecting sites, because emphasis is placed on research, preference is being given to connecting institutions that are currently busy with or could potentially be involved in scientific research activities.

So, what's the delay? A key milestone is the point at which both Seacom and the SANReN Backbone will be commissioned. This is expected to be in June or July 2009.

Once this has been achieved, Meraka's efforts can be directed to connecting the various institutions to SANReN.

"Providing a link from the Point of Presence to the local access point (in our case UCT) is the tricky part," Janse van Rensburg said. "Referred to as the 'last mile connection', it requires input from many stakeholders: city planners, construction companies and network vendors, among others."

There is some good news, though. UCT won't have to wait to be connected to SANReN before it sees improvement. TENET has indicated that international bandwidth will be "plentiful and cheap" when Seacom and the SANReN backbone have been commissioned.

"If UCT spends less on international bandwidth, then we can spend more on national bandwidth. That'll be a welcome reprieve while we wait for SANReN," said Janse van Rensburg.

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