New Zealand has several options when it comes to building an NGI (next generation internet) network, according to a report released last month.
The report was prepared for the Internet2 steering group, formed last year and made up of representatives from government, telcos, networking companies, research organisations and other potential users of NGI applications.
In the report, Wellington telco consultant Laurence Zwimpfer notes that a New Zealand NGI could come about either by co-operation between the NGI users and our telco carriers, by purpose-building a new network or by co-operation with AARNet, an Australian NGI.
The report recommends the NGI implementation team continue discussions with existing providers “but at the same time develop a business case for constructing an alternate network”.
Zwimpfer notes Telecom and Telstra-Clear and metro ethernet providers CityLink and UnitedNetworks Communications have all expressed interest in providing bandwidth and other services.
“In New Zealand, existing providers of telecommunication services have high-capacity fibre infrastructure supporting their backbone networks. Even those with only local infrastructure felt they could assist with tail circuits to individual user sites.”
Willing to help they may be, but Telecom and TelstraClear are cautious, as an NGI has the potential to erode their revenue streams.
“National providers are concerned about the potential threat to existing revenues from applications that provide NGI users with a by-pass opportunity,” the report notes.
TelstraClear spokesperson Adrienne Wilson confirmed the carrier is was present at the launch of Zwimpfer’s report in Wellington last month and has had discussions with the NGI group. “But I can’t say more than that.”
Telecom didn’t respond to a request for a statement about its involvement in the initiative.
The report says that in Australia AARNet is now a fully licensed carrier “and is able to offer its user organisations significant advantages”.
AARNet is in a different situation, Zwimpfer says, “because of the healthy growth in competition for the supply of backbone wholesale bandwidth services — it has achieved its flexibility by seeking other suppliers of backbone infrastructure, to avoid the conflict of interest in reselling services from traditional telcos”.
However, notes Zwimpfer, “New Zealand does not have that option today. Wholesale services are available from metro network providers and [internationally] from Southern Cross Cable Network, but not between cities.”
That leaves partnering with the telcos or utilising nationwide fibre owned by Transpower and Tranz Rail, or taking advantage of the Southern Cross Cable and sharing capacity with AARNet.
The report notes the latter option “seems a very attractive offer”, as links to NGI networks in the US could be achieved through the Seattle-based Northwest Gigapop — a gigabit-level point of presence “to the nation’s next-generation internet networks including Internet2/Abilene, high-performance federal nets, and high-performance commodity internet offerings”.
However, in something of a caveat, Zwimpfer notes “the detail would need to be negotiated”.
AARNet chief executive George McLaughlin says AARNet has had discussions with the New Zealand NGI group and “would be willing to do whatever it could to support any initiative in New Zealand”.
If New Zealand opts to link with AARNet, “we’d activate a drop point in New Zealand and upgrade our capacity”.
Once a link was established, New Zealand would be able to peer with the whole next-generation internet network-based research and education community worldwide, he says.
McLaughlin says the power of the worldwide next-generation internet research and education network was demonstrated when he gave a presentation via videoconference to Sydney from Belgium earlier this year, using that network and bypassing ISDN and the public net.
“I linked from Belgium across the Atlantic through GEANT, a Pan-European network, then from New York to Seattle through US backbone Abilene, then across the Pacific from the Pacific Northwest Gigapop in Seattle, then from Sydney University.”
From the university, a connection was made to the presentation venue via spread spectrum wireless and McLaughlin says the connection was “crystal clear.”
Whatever way the backbone and bandwidth are acquired, the report notes that New Zealand’s NGI network should have regional gigapops in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton and Auckland and more established in Invercargill, Nelson, Porirua and Whangarei within a year.
It is proposed that the network backbone be 2.5Gbit/s, configured so as to offer two 1Gbit/s channels and provide redundancy in the event of maintenance, upgrades and accidental outages.
For those who think that’s high capacity, it’s just the beginning of the report’s vision.
“The design is capable of incrementing the initial offering of two 1Gbit/s networks — 24-core fibre will be laid and as additional capacity is required, additional fibres can be added to each network by installing additional lasers and fibre couplers. Up to 10 channels may be included in each network, providing a total bandwidth of 20Gbit/s.”
That’s nowhere near the long term limit; the report says the NGI twin networks “must have medium term theoretical capacity of 640-1000Gbit/s”.