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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X034879/1
Title: National Dark Fibre Facility- Equipment Enhancement
Principal Investigator: Seeds, Professor AJ
Other Investigators:
Nejabati, Professor R Penty, Professor R Petropoulos, Professor P
Fice, Dr MJ Simeonidou, Professor D Ponnampalam, Dr L
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Electronic and Electrical Engineering
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 03 January 2023 Ends: 02 July 2024 Value (£): 485,000
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Optical Communications Optical Devices & Subsystems
Optoelect. Devices & Circuits
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Communications Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Nov 2022 EPSRC Core Equipment Award - Panel One 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 fully remotely configurable, flexible and high capacity research facility, building upon the success of the National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS) dark fibre network (2013-2018). This allows 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 (>1,000 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 quantum secured networking, sensing and experiments with novel spectrum usage.

2. User experiment areas at multiple Access Points to interface directly with NDFF dark fibre. This proposal includes provision for extension of the dark-fibre network to assist in meeting user needs. Interconnection for traffic generation and experiment control is also possible UK-wide at Layer2 through services such as Janet Netpath+.

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

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.

5. A remotely configurable Layer2 and above network to enable research into dynamic and intelligent network management which will interface with 6G Wireless research under this proposal.

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 are 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 of CDT Students and other researchers using dedicated research and technician support. Administration, user interface and dissemination are the responsibility of a dedicated facility manager.

The proposed equipment enhancement, which is the result of extensive consultation with Users and benefits from the advice of experts from the NDFF External Advisory Board, will provide improved access, operational and measurement facilities.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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