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In early 1999, Abilene, the newest addition to the Internet backbone, was brought online. Abilene was developed by University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), a consortium of 132 universities. The new backbone will eventually connect over 100 universities using the Qwest nationwide fiber-optic network and is the first part of UCAID's Internet2 project. Internet2 is a high-speed Internet backbone initiative proposed by former Vice President Al Gore. Major contributions include the following:

  • Fiber-optic network capacity provided by Qwest

  • SONET transmission equipment provided by Northern Telecom

  • Gigabit switch routers provided by Cisco

The current Internet backbone runs at 45 Mbits/sec. Another Internet backbone addition called vBNS (Very high-speed Backbone Network Service) was developed by MCI and operates at 62 Mbits/sec. The goal of Internet2 is to eventually boost this speed up to 9.6 Gbits/sec.

UCAID members will use the Abilene network for current research projects that require high bandwidths and as a platform for developing new applications that can take advantage of high bandwidth. Due to its high speed, the network supports real-time video for specialized applications such as, for example, remote monitoring of medical procedures. Abilene is also providing a test bed for implementing QoS (quality of service) and traffic prioritization techniques that are essential for real-time voice and video traffic on the Internet.

The actual fiber network provided by Qwest (called the Macro Capacity Fiber Network) is over 18,499 miles in length, making it the largest test network in the world. Qwest's physical network spans the United States and Mexico. It also extends via submarine cable across the Atlantic to Europe and across the Pacific to Pacific Rim countries. The network topology is a bidirectional ring architecture that is built for reliability. Its self-healing design provides instant rerouting of traffic in the event of a line failure.

Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.
All rights reserved under Pan American and International copyright conventions.