NDFF: National Dark Fibre Facility

Research area 5G
Dates 1st March 2019 - 31st May 2024
Funder EPSRC
Contact person Professor Dimitra Simeonidou

UK Research and Innovation- Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded a £4.9 Million grant to fund a National Research Facility, the National Dark Fibre Facility (NDFF) to support UK researchers in creating the new communications networks required for the future internet. Following a competitive call for proposals, a 5 year contract has been awarded for NDFF.  The Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol are part of a consortium including the Universities of Cambridge and Southampton with UCL as prime contractor.

NDFF will provide access to a dedicated software defined dark fibre network using dedicated dual optical fibre connections between these universities, with onward connection to European and Worldwide research networks via Telehouse, London. These fibre links, comprising some 750 km of single mode fibre, together with control and monitoring systems, will be provided to NDFF through continued close collaboration with the Jisc-Joint Academic Network, Janet. Researchers in the UK will be able to access the new network, to be named Aurora 3, both directly by placing equipment at consortium sites and remotely using Layer 2 networking connections, such as the Jisc Netpath service. 

The new service builds on previous work carried out by the consortium, which led to the creation of the (EPSRC) and Jisc funded National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS). NDFIS was the world's first optical fibre research network to offer software defined transmission parameters, dynamic reconfiguration into multiple sub-networks with the ability to handle multiple transmission formats simultaneously. 

As well as supporting research on the future core optical network, which underpins the internet, NDFF will also enable research with experimental metro networks, including a new small mesh network in the Cambridge area and interworking with Layer 2 through dark fibre connections to the first software defined network Exchange at Slough Virtus. NDFF will also support research on quantum communications in collaboration with the UK Quantum Technology Hub for Quantum Communications and on wireless backhaul networks for future Wireless Systems such as 5G+ and the internet of things.

Project team

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Programme Overview:

5GUK Exchange in the Smart Internet Lab
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