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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V035487/1
Title: National Dark Fibre Facility- Equipment Enhancement
Principal Investigator: Seeds, Professor AJ
Other Investigators:
Petropoulos, Professor P Nejabati, Professor R Penty, Professor R
Fice, Dr MJ Simeonidou, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr L Ponnampalam
Project Partners:
Department: Electronic and Electrical Engineering
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 14 November 2020 Ends: 13 May 2022 Value (£): 437,481
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Networks & Distributed Systems Optical Communications
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Communications Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
29 Sep 2020 Core Equipment Award 2020 - Panel 1 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The National Dark Fibre Facility (NDFF) provides the UK National Research Facility for dark fibre network research. A dark fibre network is a communications network, where it is possible to access and control the network at the optical layer, Layer1 (physical layer) in the seven layer Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model of communications networks which underpins the internet.

NDFF provides a new, fully remotely configurable, flexible and high capacity research facility, building upon the success of the National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS1) dark fibre network (2013-2018). This will allow UK universities and their industrial collaborators to develop and demonstrate future networks which require access to or control of the optical layer (OSI Layer1). NDFF comprises:

1. A dark fibre network of scale sufficient for experiments representative of real-world applications (>600 km). Users are able to connect their equipment directly to the installed fibres and control the optical layer, allowing experiments on new techniques, such as quantum encoded data, adaptive spectrum slicing and Software Defined Networks (SDN). The equipment included in this proposal supports metro-scale networking and experiments with novel spectrum usage.

2. User experiment areas at multiple access nodes to interface directly with NDFF dark fibre. Interconnection for traffic generation and experiment control will also be possible UK-wide at Layer2 through services such as Janet Netpath and innovative user connection strategies funded by this proposal.

3. Remotely programmable amplifiers, switches and dispersion compensation modules which will enable the transmission characteristics of the network to be varied and will allow dynamic configuration of the network topology by users. L-Band operation over part of the network will be supported by this proposal.

4. Wavelength Selective Switches (WSS) to split optical channels into separate optical fibres (or merge them into one fibre). A Flexgrid WSS gives user defined channel widths, enabling research on new utilisation models for the optical spectrum, increasing available logical topologies and allowing concurrent experiments using different optical wavelengths. The equipment included in this proposal extends capabilities to L-Band.

5. A remotely configurable Layer2 and above network to enable research into dynamic and intelligent network management.

6. An SDN and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) research platform for UK researchers, enabling them to upload network policies directly, monitoring and manipulating the optical properties of the network. UK researchers will be able to develop and test networks having optimised latency, traffic grooming, energy consumption or security properties.

7. A distributed processing infrastructure by linking sites that host servers, storage, memory and sensing. This will provide opportunities to study distributed Cloud and Fog infrastructures connected by high capacity reconfigurable optical networks. It will also provide nerve nodes that can perform network analytics offering users a new level of network programmability and adaptation.

8. The ability to test concepts in network security and resilience across all seven OSI model layers, something that is impossible with other networks. This is of particular importance as networks are starting to introduce software control and flexibility at Layer1, creating new security and resilience challenges for network control.

9. Training using dedicated research and technician support. Administration, user interface and dissemination will be the responsibility of a dedicated facility manager. In order to achieve the full potential of the facility, it is crucial to engage with the UK research community and promote the service. NDFF engages in UK and international meetings and will bring together users at an annual user day.
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