TENET, the non-profit organisation that runs the national research and education network, has confirmed a R192-million two-year contract to a partnership of Neotel and Internet Solutions (IS) to provide it with its third generation  communications network for academic research and collaboration. 

The IP Virtual Private Network provided by Neotel will connect over 80 campuses across the country, and will dramatically improve access to the Internet for students, educators and researchers, delivering a total bandwidth capacity in excess of 320Mbps.
IS will provide and manage all of the customer equipment, and support the end-to-end service, and will provide TENET's international links to overseas, with an exchange point in London.
“We have always said that we are seeking partnerships in the industry, and we believe that this joint contract with IS is the first of many," says Ajay Pandey, MD of Neotel.
"Neotel is very proud to be a partner in the GEN3 TENET network. Researchers in South Africa must have access to large amounts of bandwidth based on the latest technology to be able to do work that is globally relevant to their peers in the US and Europe, as well as those in other rapidly developing countries that are moving ahead very quickly in the use of technology.”
Hillel Shrock, director: business solutions at IS, adds: “IS is delighted to have been awarded this contract along with Neotel as our partner. "We have established a good working relationship with Neotel and predict this success to be the start of various benefits for our existing and potential customers.
"The services to TENET will assist research, universities, and students who are the future professionals and leaders of our country, in their quest to stay abreast and contribute to global learning and knowledge.”
This is amongst the first contracts awarded for Neotel's end-to-end IP VPN services, which are set to change the telecommunications landscape in South Africa.
Neotel is providing a true end-to-end IP network over high-speed fibre links, allowing IS and TENET to build services and applications that will help South African universities and research institutions to re-establish leadership positions in the academic world. The new TENET network will start rollout from 1 January 2008, when the existing service provider contract expires. Sites will start to cut over from that date, with all links converted by 31 March 2008.
“TENET is acting on behalf of the universities and research institutions and looks forward to a new era of communications through our ‘GEN3’ network, supported by Neotel and Internet Solutions,” says Duncan Martin, CEO of TENET.
“Through TENET, the universities and research institutions are building what is rapidly becoming a genuine world-class National Research and Education Network (NREN), with connections to other RENs internationally that allow the universities and research centres to collaborate with their peers around the world.”
The new TENET GEN3 network is an MPLS-enabled fully-meshed network with 10Gb Ethernet backbone links provided by Neotel, which also provides the network access equipment at each site. Redundant links to IS’ network management systems allow it to manage traffic and monitor performance.
Dedicated links to TENET’s “Breehead” gateway, which is hosted in IS’s facility in Bree Street, Cape Town  then connect the network to other international RENs.
Tertiary education institutions that will access the GEN3 network include Wits, UCT, the Universities of Fort Hare, Free State, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Western Cape, Walter Sisulu University and Nelson Mandela University in the Eastern Cape, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, North West University, Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein and UNISA, as well as research organisations such as the CSIR, MRC, NRF, and the National Library.