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GN4-3N Project celebrates major milestone with first Infinera equipment installation in Lisbon

A major milestone has been achieved in the GÉANT GN4-3N Project, the most significant refresh of Europe’s biggest and fastest research and education network in a decade, with the installation of the first new Infinera line systems in Lisbon.

The first route scheduled to go live is that connecting Lisbon and Porto. FlexILS and Groove G30 equipment installation and end to end testing on this route has been completed by Infinera Professional Services and formal acceptance of the route by GÉANT is expected in early November.

Site survey work on the new Lisbon to Madrid route has now started and surveys on the new Porto to Bilbao and Paris to Bilbao routes are due to commence the week of 2 November. Equipment installation, route line up and end to end testing on these three routes is due to be completed by the end of 2020.

With GN4-3N installation work now well underway, we spoke with some of the people involved to understand what this means for the project and its partners.

Paul Shelswell, Programme Manager for the GN4-3N Project: “It’s great for the whole team to see new routes almost ready, after such detailed planning and procurement stages and the inevitable installation delays imposed due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. I’d like to thank everybody involved – from GÉANT’s Operations and Procurement teams, to the Network Infrastructure and Advisory Committee, our project partners and in particular our colleagues at FCT|FCCN – for all going the extra mile to make this happen. I’m really excited to see the first traffic flowing across this route soon.”

Emanuel Massano, Service Manager for FCT|FCCN: “First, I must say I’m very excited to be part of this project! As the team leader for the Iberian Peninsula study during the regional studies phase, my colleagues and I worked hard to find the best network topology that could fulfil the region-specific needs as well as comply with the project goals and requirements. So, working now in the implementation phase is very rewarding, despite being on the ‘other side’ as the provider and not as the client.

I do believe this project will serve the European scientific and education community well, helping them to be closer and to give more equal opportunities to all, no matter if they are based in central Europe or in an area with (until now) worse telecommunication conditions. That’s why FCT|FCCN offered its optical fibre infrastructure as a service, to help construct a better network, to provide better opportunities to the community, to end the digital divide.

As with all projects there have been challenges along the way, from needing to reorganise the telecoms room in Porto to fit the new GÉANT rack, reorganising the equipment racks so that we could share the space with GÉANT, to all sorts of power issues, to fixing fibre issues along the way – a lot of work already done and surely a lot more yet to come! But, with every problem comes a solution and an achievement is reached thanks to great collaboration across the teams.

But what is most rewarding is that we are learning a lot during the process. Working with high-level professionals from GÉANT, always very organised and looking at every detail, searching for any possible risk to the project, is also raising our standards. And we are learning with the field experience also, such as what are the difficulties we can expect when upgrading our own optical system.

In the end I am very pleased to help in everything I can. I feel very lucky to work and learn from such talented colleagues at GÉANT. And I foresee a great GÉANT network that we will all be proud of!”

Next stages

The focus is now on the completion of the final GN4-3N network topology in collaboration with the Network Infrastructure Advisory Committee (NIAC); continued procurement of new connectivity and the required Infinera equipment and services; and then to build out all of the new routes. The teams will also support migration of existing GÉANT services from the existing network to the new GN4-3N network. And all this needs to take place alongside the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and related impacts.

“The renewal of a pan-European network was always going to be an extremely challenging project,” adds Paul. “With the added challenge of a changing COVID-19 environment, I’m extremely grateful for the outstanding and highly collaborative teams we are relying upon.”

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