In Focus Network

GN4-3N pushing ahead despite challenges

GN4-3N Illustrative map showing planned fibre

Despite the best efforts of COVID-19 and the resultant national lockdowns and travel restrictions, the €63.125m GÉANT GN4-3N Project – representing the most significant refresh of the pan-European GÉANT network in a decade – continues apace.

This project – ambitious enough without the additional challenges presented over the past 12 months – is progressing well thanks to the tireless efforts and commitment of the GN4-3N project team, GÉANT’s network implementation team, our NREN partners, and our close partner suppliers.

Virtual implementation

For example, the network implementation team – more used to spending their time in planes, trains and PoP (Point of Presence) locations around Europe building, maintaining and updating the network – have had to radically rearrange their working practices to ensure project progress is uninterrupted. So, rather than being on-site, they are now far more reliant on sub-contractors, sharing their knowledge and documenting processes to ensure network PoP infrastructure is ready for new equipment deployment.

For GN4-3N this means the re-engineering of 37 PoPs and setting up of several new sites.

Valuable partnerships

Partner suppliers also report challenges – from careful coordination of project, travel, and testing schedules; ensuring staff are safe despite their travel, work, and isolation requirements; arranging and re-arranging travel at short notice; to dealing with the more extreme winter weather experienced in recent months. Understandably some countries are less experienced at dealing with snow than others, with some remote sites difficult to reach due to uncleared roads and the lack of 4×4 or winter-tyred rental vehicles. The supposed glamour of business travel certainly has another side!

Lest we forget

These challenges fall into the background when it’s remembered why GN4-3N is so important, and what it means for so many of our NREN partners and their research and education communities.

Designed to make the most of changes in technologies, and opportunities presented by a changing landscape of network procurement, GN4-3N is set to give research and education communities improved performance, increased flexibility, and reduced expense alongside long term platform stability. It is enabling fairly priced, high-capacity connectivity across all of Europe: a Europe where a gigabit of capacity will cost virtually the same across the network and in turn bring consistent and predictable pricing for the benefit of NRENs and their customers.

GN4-3N is therefore not ‘just’ a network project: it is helping to narrow the digital divide, stimulating the market in cross-border communications, and supporting greener ICT. And with an average annualised increase in network traffic of 30% per annum for each of the past five years, there is no time to waste, pandemic or not.

At the time of writing in March 2021:

  • Six routes (Lisbon-Porto, LisbonMadrid, Porto-Bilbao, Paris-Bilbao, Madrid-Marseille and Marseille–Milan2) have been completed and either formally accepted or are close to acceptance.
  • The first IP traffic has been sent across the Lisbon-Porto route as part of testing.
  • Three further routes (Milan1-Milan2, Milan2-Vienna and Geneva1-Milan1) are currently in the implementation phase.
  • Ten routes are currently in the connectivity delivery phase from contracted providers.
  • Five routes are in the active tendering phase.
  • Eight routes have been endorsed by the Network Infrastructure Advisory Committee (NIAC) that provides guidance and advice and comprises representatives from a range of NRENs.

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