Kiwi research network live at last

Five years after the concept was first proposed by New Zealand government officials, a high speed broadband network linking the country's eight universities and several other research institutions has finally gone live.

Five years after the concept was first proposed by New Zealand government officials, a high speed broadband network linking the country's eight universities and several other research institutions has finally gone live.

The 10Gbps Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN) has cost more than NZ$80 million to build and is touted as a vital link between New Zealand researchers and their counterparts around the world.

A pilot trial of the network began in August last year. As well as linking the country's universities, the network also connects the National Library in Wellington and nine government-owned research companies specialising in disciplines ranging from agricultural research to geothermal science.

Early usage of the network has included Auckland University engineers participating in US earthquake simulation experiments, forestry research scientists sharing large data sets with Australian colleagues and Auckland mathematicians collaborating via high-quality video link with academics at Oxford University.

-Initially, the advantages for members connected to KAREN will be vastly increased speeds, and better quality and more reliable video conferencing platforms," said the network's chief executive, Donald Clark.

-Very quickly our members will develop their capabilities to use this 21st century enabling technology to transform their teaching and research practises. In the longer term as schools, museums and libraries are connected, along with private sector innovation partners, KAREN will become an essential piece of infrastructure," said Clark.

Early last year Telstra's New Zealand subsidiary, TelstraClear, won the NZ$43 million government contract to build and operate the network, which has in part been developed around TelstraClear's existing intercity fibre network.

The research organisations connected to KAREN have contributed a similar amount on top of the government's direct contribution to fund the network's development. TelstraClear chief executive, Dr Allan Freeth, said the telco intended to develop and operate the network in a flexible way to meet the needs of the research and education community.

More than 40 countries have super-fast high-capacity networks similar to KAREN serving their research communities.

A separate NZ$14 million New Zealand government broadband network, the Government Shared Network (GSN), was launched last year. The GSN is aimed at meeting the telecommunications needs of non-research government departments.