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Developing the Advance Research and Education Network in Singapore

Launched as a national project by the Singapore government in 1997 and institutionalised in 2003, the Singapore Advance Research and Education Network (SingAREN) society has contributed much in paving the way for Singapore's transition to the next generation internet...

Singapore, 20 December 2005

Launched as a national project by the Singapore government in 1997 and institutionalised in 2003, the Singapore Advance Research and Education Network (SingAREN) society has contributed much in paving the way for Singapore's transition to the next generation internet. In 2005, SingAREN achieved a wider reach and faster connectivity with research and education (R&E) institutions globally, thus enhancing collaborations between Singapore and overseas academics and establishing the nation as the leader and AREN hub for the region.

The birth of SingAREN

In the early days, the Internet was primarily a research and education network among the major universities. It was a "playground" for academics to experiment with network technologies and develop new applications, many of which like TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol), e-mail and the World Wide Web are being used today.

As the Internet became more commercialised in the mid 90s, the United States recognised the importance of having an advance research and education network (AREN) to sustain the pace of innovation. Thus, in 1996, Internet2, which was modeled after the "old Internet", was born.

Singapore followed closely after the U.S. and started a national project in 1997 known as the Singapore Advance Research and Education Network (SingAREN) to ensure that our local R&E community is connected to its international counterparts. Through SingAREN, network connectivity to the global Next Generation Internet (NGI) community such as Internet2 and APAN (Asia Pacific Advanced Network) was maintained.

As a project, SingAREN was initially funded by then Telecom Authority of Singapore (now known as IDA) and National Science and Technology Board (currently known as Agency for Science, Technology and Research). On Oct 2003, SingAREN was officially registered as a Society and restructured itself to be a self-funded organisation via services provided to its members. The society's core missions are:

   1. To be an advocate and champion for advanced network applications and technology in Singapore
   2. To be a platform for collective representation of the community of research and education networks in Singapore
   3. To facilitate cost-competitive adoption of advance Internet technologies for the research and education community in Singapore

Gaining a firm foothold as an AREN hub

Although SingAREN became an independent society, the Technology Group of IDA continues to play an active role in SingAREN, advocating and championing the development of advanced network applications and technology here. In particular, 2005 has proved to be an especially fruitful year for SingAREN.

Firstly, SingAREN has successfully upgraded its network infrastructure to a Gigabit Ethernet network between the major universities and research institutions. The international connectivity to Internet2 has also increased to 155mbps. This S$1.2 million project, known as SingAREN Gigabit Internet Exchange (GIX), ensures that SingAREN has sufficient capacity to handle the increased R&E collaborations with US universities (e.g. Singapore-MIT Alliance) as well as the additional requirements from the National GRID Pilot Platform.

Beside the 155mbps link to U.S. Internet2, SingAREN also gained a 155mbps link to Taiwan Academia of Sinica Computer Center (ASCC) and 155mbps connectivity to the Japan Gigabit Network II (JGN2). The latter was established in November and several projects have already been planned, including an e-Learning platform connecting Catholic High School with the schools in Mitaka City and an e-Health project between Singapore National Eye Centre and Asahikawa Medicial College Hospital for 3D high-definition medical communications.

The most significant activity for SingAREN in 2005 is the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN2)3, a 10m euro (S$20 million) project largely-funded by the European Commission. TEIN2's goal is to build R&E connectivity between Europe and Asia-Pacific region to the benefit of developing countries in Asia. Although Singapore was not one of the named benefactors, SingAREN participated in the project representing the Singapore R&E community. Working together with the industry and IDA, SingAREN successfully anchored Singapore as one of the three cores for the TEIN2 network in Asia-Pacific, serving Malaysia (45mbps), Thailand (155mbps), Indonesia (45mbps), Korea (622mbps), and Australia (622mbps). In addition, the Singapore hub will also have connectivity to Tokyo (622mbps) and Hong Kong (622mbps), as well as provide the primary Europe-Asia connectivity (2.1Gbps).

These activities are indeed important to the R&E community in Singapore, as they provide conduits for Singaporean researchers to do cutting edge network experimentation while enhancing collaborations among Singapore and overseas academics. More importantly though, they have firmly established Singapore as the leader and AREN hub for this region.

But even with these milestones of achievements, there will be more challenges ahead with technology being ever-changing. The continued progress of Singapore as an AREN hub also cannot be done by a stand-alone effort. Recognising these, SingAREN has formed Special Interest Groups to focus on specific issues such as IP convergence, e-learning and life sciences, and to establish industry partnership in the society’s projects, for the benefit of the entire community.