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Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. Many of its major cities are separated by expansive stretches of inhospitable desert. Technology, however, is no respector of barriers, natural or man-made and an initiative across Australia from Cisco and Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) proves that point. Yesterday, Cisco and AARNet announced the deployment of one of the longest unregenerated high performance optical networks in the world.

Starting in Adelaide and travelling to Perth (the second most isolated major city in the world) and continuing on to the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory (MRO) in remote Western Australia, the newly deployed network will stretch 3500 km (about 2200 mi). The capacity of the network is scalable to 8Tbps over the 2700 km stretch of fibre from Adelaide to Perth, with 80 channels each providing speeds of 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps). Transmission speeds of 100Gbps have also been consistent during testing on the 800 km stretch of fibre from Perth to the MRO.

Those numbers sound impressive, but what’s really important is what they mean: the network will underpin Australia’s element of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) global research project, which is the largest and most capable radio telescope ever constructed. Cisco’s roll out of optical fibre connecting Adelaide and Perth to the MRO in the middle of the Australian outback is critical for enabling this participation, which is extremely data intensive.

The complexity of rolling out a fibre-optic network across such vast distances, where the terrain is harsh, cannot be understated. The challenge was made more difficult by the necessity to work with multiple types of optical fibre, including G.652, G.655 and G.652ULL added complexity to the challenge of vast distance. Cisco solved the challenge using a mix of Raman and EDFA amplification along with coherent optical modulation techniques.

This is just the latest announcement in what has been a long and valued partnership between Cisco and AARNet. Cisco has helped AARNet put together a fibre optic network in 2011, which is world-class and has proven pivotal in Australia becoming one of the two (South Africa being the other) major contributors to the SKA. Cisco has also teamed with AARNet in the roll out TelePresence in major Australian universities in order to help them collaborate with other educational institutions in Australia and overseas.

Cisco is looking forward to continuing to help AARNet remain one of the most highly esteemed and technologically advanced educational networks in the world.

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