The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) have announced that work on the national backbone network of the South African National Research Network (SANReN) has been completed ahead of schedule.

SANReN forms a crucial part of the national cyberinfrastructure initiative funded by the DST. As part of this national cyber-infrastructure, SANReN’s powerful network capabilities support projects of national importance.
The CSIR's Meraka Institute is responsible for the implementation of the DST's cyberinfrastructure initiative which, in addition to SANReN, comprises the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the proposed Very Large Datasets data-storage initiative.
The CSIR contracted Telkom for the installation of the national backbone network in July 2009.
Minister of Science & Technology Naledi Pandor says: “The completion of the national backbone network is an important milestone. The network will greatly reduce the cost of bandwidth for all research and higher education institutions in the country.
"For the first time, South African researchers will have world-class networking enabling them to collaborate nationally and with their international peers. This positions South Africa internationally as a player in global science efforts. It also makes it possible to harness South Africa's full research and development capacity to address national priority issues, including health, food security and understanding and mitigating the effect of climate change.
“Bandwidth abundance resulting from SANReN’s networking of universities will shape the growth and development of a new generation of students whose knowledge and skills will contribute to the goal of creating an inclusive information society, enabling socio-economic benefits through information and communications technology and broadband specifically," she adds.
"In turn, these advances on the scientific front will contribute to the competitiveness of local industry through the scientific breakthroughs achieved and through the establishment of a world-class national cyberinfrastructure.”
The Director-General of the DST, Dr Phil Mjwara, says: "The broadband connectivity provided by SANReN will allow reciprocal participation between South Africa and international research institutions. It will give the global research community access to facilities such as the Southern African Large Telescope and the Karoo Array Telescope (also known as MeerKAT), and allow South Africa to participate in international projects with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, among others. This milestone will further demonstrate South Africa’s readiness to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, for which the country is currently bidding."
CSIR president and CEO, Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, comments: “We have entered a new era in research networking made possible by the vision and funding of the DST. Unlocking its potential will undoubtedly benefit South Africa’s research community as our researchers are now able to engage in meaningful online collaboration with peers locally and abroad."
The national backbone now interconnects the metros of Tshwane, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay and eThekwini on a 10 Gigabits-per-second fibre-optic ring network.
The Tertiary Education Network has acquired international bandwidth from Seacom which can now be distributed via the SANReN national backbone network. Seacom is a 1.28 terabytes-per-second, 17 000 km-long submarine fibre-optic cable system linking southern and East Africa to global networks via India and Europe. This development bodes well for South Africa’s ability to tackle bandwidth-hungry projects such as the SKA.
The first phase of SANReN will connect 50 higher education and research institutions to the network and in the longer term SANReN aims to connect all research and higher education institutions in the country.