JANET: The UK's Education and Research Network

1 Conversation

JANET is a private, government-funded computer network that connects research and education organisations in the UK. It also has links to other education and research networks in Europe, the US and the Far East, making it part of the global internet. The JANET network is operated and developed by UKERNA, the UK Education and Research Networking Association (see History of JANET, below).

The JANET Network

In physical terms, JANET is a network of underground cables, often running alongside utilities such as electricity or telephone cables. In places where underground cabling is unavailable or impractical - such as mountainous areas - wireless network connections are made via microwave technology.

The JANET network is made up of a number of smaller Regional Networks, which are connected by the JANET backbone, known as SuperJANET.


To keep up with continually developing technologies, SuperJANET is maintained on a fixed term contract. New versions are developed alongside the version in operation, so that there is no disruption in service when moving from one version to another. At the time of writing, the current version is SuperJANET4, a highly resilient and reliable backbone with a transmission speed of 10Gbit/s1. SuperJANET4 is made up of eight Core Points of Presence, which are connected in such a way that traffic can be re-routed if there is a problem with one of the connections. Connected to the backbone are access links to the regional networks that in turn deliver JANET services to individual organisations.

Regional Networks

JANET provides IP2 connections to two kinds of regional networks:

  • Regional Networks are telecommunications networks which connect groups of educational and research organisations within a specific location. They used to be primarily city-based and were therefore known as Metropolitan Area Networks, but following their expansion outside the cities, they are now known as Regional Networks. They are run by RNOs (Regional Network Operators): groups of universities, colleges and research organisations throughout the UK who are, in effect, subcontracted to UKERNA (the company that develops and maintains JANET - see History of JANET, below) to provide JANET services to the end-user organisation.

  • Regional Broadband Consortia are groups of LEAs (Local Education Authorities) who are responsible for providing cost-effective broadband connectivity for schools in England. JANET involvement with the RBCs is limited to network access only, connecting each RBC network's entry point to the most convenient point of presence on the backbone. The RBCs then supply connections and services to the LEAs and schools.

Connecting to JANET

Various types of organisations are eligible for a connection to JANET. The kind of connection they can get depends on what kind of organisation they are.

  • Primary Connections: All government-funded Higher Education and Further Education organisations are eligible for a Primary Connection to JANET, as are all the Research Councils. Primary connections are supplied by UKERNA, who provide the organisation with a connection to JANET plus the full range of JANET services.

  • Sponsored Connections: Sponsored Connections are supplied via a hosting organisation which already has a Primary Connection or by a Regional Network Operator. The agreement is between the sponsored organisation and the sponsoring (primary-connected) organisation, but sponsored organisations must use JANET to support the educational and research aims of the sponsoring organisation. Sponsored organisations do not receive the full range of JANET services.

  • Proxy Connections: A Proxy Connection involves an organisation with a Primary Connection or a Regional Network Operator allowing a third-party organisation to use their JANET connection. Examples of such use would be space on the host's web server or use of their e-mail server.

  • Interconnect Connections: JANET Interconnect Connections are supplied by UKERNA to organisations responsible for providing network services to those parts of the education or research community which are not directly connected to JANET, for example schools (see the RBCs, above).

JANET Services

There are many services available to organisations with a Primary Connection to JANET. Among these are:

  • CERT, the JANET Computer Emergency Response Team, who provide emergency incident response assistance to customers whose network security has been compromised, as well as general advice on computer and network security.
  • Fault reporting via the JANET Operations Desk.
  • The JANET Videoconferencing Service, which allows any JANET organisation with suitable equipment to set up and participate in videoconferences with other organisations. In addition, the Video Technology Advisory Service publishes unbiased technical advice on all aspects of videoconferencing.
  • JANET Netsight, a monitoring service which gives customers information about the status of the JANET backbone and connections.
  • Mail services including a Mailer Shield Service (which protects an organisation's mail server from being used to relay messages between unauthorised third parties); spam testing and mail abuse prevention; and a web mail service.
  • Other advisory services including guidance for organisations who need to link between several different campuses, and advice on managing bandwidth.

History of JANET

Before the creation of JANET in April 1984, there were several regional academic networks, run by various universities, research organisations and computer centres. To bring these together and facilitate better communications, JANET (the Joint Academic NETwork) was created. The new network built upon one of the research networks, with an initial speed of 9.6kbit/s3 and connections to around 50 sites.

As the JANET network expanded, the transmission speeds and number of connected sites increased so that by the early 1990s the backbone was running at 8Mbit/s4 and connections onto the backbone were running at 2Mbit/s.

Thus far, the JANET network was run on X.25 protocols 5, but in 1991 a pilot service was introduced using the new TCP/IP protocols, which were already being used in the US and in increasing proportions around the world. Soon, traffic over the IP service had overtaken X.25 traffic and with the introduction of the high-speed SuperJANET backbone in 1992, the move from X.25 to IP was completed.

The network continued to grow in speed, coverage and reliability, as new versions of SuperJANET were developed and brought into operation. This development established connections to European networks, as well as to the global internet and academic networks as far afield as the US, Japan and China. In the UK, JANET extended its user base to include Further Education, Adult and Community Learning and also into schools through the JANET interconnect.

The JNT Association and UKERNA

Until 1993, JANET was run by the Joint Network Team of the Science and Engineering Research Council. On 10 December, 1993, the Higher Education Funding Councils for England, Scotland and Wales and the Office of Science and Technology formed the JNT Association (trading as UKERNA), a not-for-profit company funded by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee of the UK Higher and Further Education Funding Councils) to manage and develop the network.

UKERNA work under a Service Level Agreement with JISC which defines the level of acceptable service under each area of network provision. This ensures that the network is always operated and developed with the education, learning and research community in mind.

Future of JANET

At the time of writing, a project is underway to develop the next SuperJANET backbone. The network continues to grow and improve with new advances in technology and increasing demand from the community.

110 gigabits per second. A gigabit is 1,000,000,000 bits (binary digits). Basically, it's fast.2Internet Protocol.3Kilobits per second. A kilobit is 1000 bits.4Megabits per second. A megabit is 1,000,000 bits.5Protocols are rules which dictate how information passes across a network.

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