National Dark Fibre Facility

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Abstract

The National Dark Fibre Facility (NDFF) will provide 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 will be 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 will comprise:
1. A dark fibre network of scale sufficient for experiments representative of real-world applications (>600 km). Users will be 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 will engage in UK and international meetings and will bring together users at an annual user day. Web-based interfaces with users and potential users will be further developed.

Planned Impact

NDFF will have a great impact on the development of the internet, through (i) enabling advances in the core technical fields of Communications Engineering and Computer Science, via allowing new types of optical networks to be tested at scale whilst exposed to real world environmental effects and to interconnect research groups with a high capacity and flexible network and (ii) advancing all internet applications through the creation of a radically enhanced communication environment. Impacts would include:
a) Scientific/Academic
Large Data Sets:
1. Scientific: High volume data management and advanced visualisation for big Science (particle physics, radio-astronomy, biological sciences e.g. STFC SKA telescope). Remote optical sensing (e,g, Sensor Technology CDT, Cambridge, EP/L015889/1).
2. E-health: Very high quality transfer and visualisation of medical images for remote diagnosis and surgery (e.g. McKenna, Oxford, NS/A000024/1), remote monitoring for assisted living (NHS)
Low Latency:
1. Ubiquitous computing: New networked computing and storage architectures (Grid, Cloud and Fog) over high performance networks (e.g. Race, Lancaster, EP/R004935/1)
2. Media and entertainment: Ultra high definition broadcasting and digital cinema applications, distributed AR/VR, internet enabled gaming and e-sports (media companies, Cinegrid) - e.g. BBC R&D Multiplayer Broadcasting project
New Applications:
1. Quantum Technology: Distribution of quantum keys over networks, entanglement based quantum relays and repeaters to extend quantum links without trusted nodes. Demonstration of reliable quantum secured communication on shared fibres with conventional traffic. (UK Quantum Technology Programme, including InnovateUK project FQNet and Quantum Communication Hub Spiller, York EP/M013472/1).
2. New Physics: Ultrastable optical carrier transfer, enabling quantum technologies such as optical clocks, emerging applications such as relativistic geodesy, fundamental physics such as tests of General Relativity, optical carrier frequency transfer and dissemination, e.g. EURAMET ITOC project
3. Industrial/manufacturing applications such as networked control, autonomous vehicles and mega-city scale sensor networks (e.g Griffiths, Warwick, EP/N012380/1).
b) Economic
NDFF will enable research in support of large and growing markets in e.g. e-gaming ($23B), optical networks ($26B), optical sensing ($3B) and data centres ($35B) where over 20% of the entire EU spend is in the UK and is entirely dependent on high capacity resilient communications. Several company users use NDFIS1 for pre-competitive and collaborative research, or plan to do so (e.g. BT, Toshiba Research Europe, Microsoft, Oclaro, BBC). Concepts developed within the academic community can be trialled, aiding knowledge transfer, spin-out and standards activities. NDFF experiments would also benefit broadband development in the UK, contributing to the UK's economic and social development.
c) Skills and Training
NDFF will not only train PhD students and post-doctoral researchers but also engineers and apprentices in industry, both those directly associated with the delivery of NDFF, but also those who participate in field trials. This will provide a skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of both academia and industry.
d) Society
NDFF will enable users to contribute to the health and prosperity of UK society by trialling technologies, network concepts and applications in fields such as i) use of ICT in healthcare, ii) public access to data via high performance access to repositories, iii) secure networks enabling better protection of individual's personal and financial data. Users would be able to make use of the results of high profile trials using NDFF to influence policy and public opinion.
 
Description 1. World record secure key rates/distances for quantum key distribution over optical fibre
2. Utilising NDFF and its software defined network capability, a crowdsourced live video streaming (CLVS) network service has been successfully demonstrated.
Exploitation Route 1.Secure key distribution can improve the security of information transmission over the internet.
2. A Crowdsourced Live Video Streaming (CLVS) is an example of next generation (5G and beyond) Network Service (NS) in which thousands of users attending an event (sports, concert, etc) stream video from their smartphones to a CLVS platform, where contents from all the users are edited in real time, producing an aggregated video, which can be broadcasted to a large number of viewers.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.ndff.ac.uk
 
Description 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 the UK communications industry to develop and demonstrate future networks which require access to or control of the optical layer (OSI Layer1). We have introduced enhancements in NDFF to permit users to interact with the network at the data layer (OSI Layer 2). We have also introduced technologies to NDFF to permit experiments as part of the UK Quantum Network (UKQN). These have involved both academic and industrial collaborators and have achieved record secure key distribution rates/distances.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Economic

 
Description (CLONETS-DS) - Clock Network Services - Design Study
Amount € 2,963,149 (EUR)
Funding ID 951886 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 09/2020 
End 09/2022
 
Description Agile Quantum Safe Communications 
Organisation ADVA Optical Networking
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Within this project the University of Cambridge developed a multi-homed quantum secured backup network, which is centered within Cambridge, but critically uses the NDFF fibre link between Cambridge and Telehouse North, in Docklands.
Collaborator Contribution User equipment in Cambridge (Toshiba, 4 QKD systems for backbone networks for use in the NDFF, total £ 672k; Toshiba Quantum Access Network System for use in the Cambridge metropolitan network, £ 684k; ADVA 100G comms equipment to enable 100G quantum secured transmission on the NDFF, £75k);
Impact 1. Invited paper - A. Wonfor, C. White, A. Lord, R. Nejabati, T. P. Spiller, J. F. Dynes, A. J. Shields, and R. V. Penty, 'Quantum networks in the UK', in Proc. SPIE 11712, Metro and Data Center Optical Networks and Short-Reach Links IV, Mar. 2021, vol. 11712, p. 1171207, doi: 10.1117/12.2578598. 2. P. Wright, C. White, R. C. Parker, J.-S. Pegon, M. Menchetti, J. Pearse, A. Bahrami, A. Moroz, A. Wonfor, R. V. Penty, T. P. Spiller, and A. Lord, '5G network slicing with QKD and quantum-safe security', J. Opt. Commun. Netw., JOCN, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 33-40, Mar. 2021, doi: 10.1364/JOCN.413918. 3. Y. Gong, A. Wonfor, J. H. Hunt, I. H. White, and R. V. Penty, 'Experimental demonstration of confidential communication with quantum security monitoring', Sci Rep, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 21686, Nov. 2021, doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01013-y.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Agile Quantum Safe Communications 
Organisation Toshiba Research Europe Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Within this project the University of Cambridge developed a multi-homed quantum secured backup network, which is centered within Cambridge, but critically uses the NDFF fibre link between Cambridge and Telehouse North, in Docklands.
Collaborator Contribution User equipment in Cambridge (Toshiba, 4 QKD systems for backbone networks for use in the NDFF, total £ 672k; Toshiba Quantum Access Network System for use in the Cambridge metropolitan network, £ 684k; ADVA 100G comms equipment to enable 100G quantum secured transmission on the NDFF, £75k);
Impact 1. Invited paper - A. Wonfor, C. White, A. Lord, R. Nejabati, T. P. Spiller, J. F. Dynes, A. J. Shields, and R. V. Penty, 'Quantum networks in the UK', in Proc. SPIE 11712, Metro and Data Center Optical Networks and Short-Reach Links IV, Mar. 2021, vol. 11712, p. 1171207, doi: 10.1117/12.2578598. 2. P. Wright, C. White, R. C. Parker, J.-S. Pegon, M. Menchetti, J. Pearse, A. Bahrami, A. Moroz, A. Wonfor, R. V. Penty, T. P. Spiller, and A. Lord, '5G network slicing with QKD and quantum-safe security', J. Opt. Commun. Netw., JOCN, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 33-40, Mar. 2021, doi: 10.1364/JOCN.413918. 3. Y. Gong, A. Wonfor, J. H. Hunt, I. H. White, and R. V. Penty, 'Experimental demonstration of confidential communication with quantum security monitoring', Sci Rep, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 21686, Nov. 2021, doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01013-y.
Start Year 2019
 
Description DTU ML transmission 
Organisation Technical University of Denmark
Department Department of Photonics Engineering
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We carried out experiments in our labs and over the EPSRC National Dark Fibre Facility.
Collaborator Contribution They provided machine learning algorithms for controlling the transmission over the network. This was a collaborative experiment with our collaborators processing the data that we generated, and feeding back the signal parameters that were needed for the transmission.
Impact Ongoing research.
Start Year 2021
 
Description 2021 BT and UCL Quantum Communications Focus Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited lecture for students interested in quantum communications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description DTU workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We delivered a presentation on our activities at a virtual workshop organised by the Danish Technical University. The presentation led directly to joint experiments with researchers at DTU that have made use of the National Dark Fibre Facility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description INITIATE Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact NDFF staff at Bristol University developed a virtual workshop on 5G, Haptics, IoT, Immersive and LiFi across specialist distributed, national network in May 2020. In this workshop, it was shown how the National Dark Fibre Facility could enhance 5G/6G related research. NDFF has deployed a dark fibre connection to the UK 5G Exchange located at the Virtus Data Centre at Slough, enabling NDFF to support cross layer networking and deployment of new network protocols at OSI Layer 2 and above. This has led to strong User interest for further connections, both at OSI Layer 2 and at OSI Layer 1. Provision for additional Layer 2 connections is currently in progress
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description NDFF Users Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A virtual workshop was held on the 14th of January 2022 to engage with researchers across the UK to promote the Facility, present recent User research, and solicit User views on their needs and prioritisation of future enhancements to NDFF. The network upgrades that are in progress were discussed. In particular, the new dark fibre connection to the UK 5G Exchange located at the Virtus Data Centre at Slough; L2 connections to Kings College London to Slough; L2 connection to University of Strathclyde to Slough; and L2 Connection from Leeds to Cambridge were discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description National Dark Fibre Facility Introduction meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A virtual workshop was held on the 29th of July 2020 to engage with researchers across the UK to promote the Facility, present recent User research, and solicit User views on their needs and prioritisation of future enhancements to NDFF. A specific instance of the value of this input was its use to determine priorities for capital equipment provision.The network upgrades that are in progress were discussed. In particular, the new dark fibre connection to the UK 5G Exchange located at the Virtus Data Centre at Slough that enables NDFF to support cross layer networking and deployment of new network protocols at Layer 2 and above led to strong User interests for further connections to NDFF, both at Layer 2 and at OSI Layer 1.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2021 in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Latest quantum related research activities were presented to a broader community, such as IT industry and government related audience. At the showcase, the importance of NDFF was highlighted. This led to several new User enquiries from quantum start-up companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Participated in the National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2019 (Westminster, 15 November 2019). 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact NDFF exhibited on the NRF stand at the National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2019 (Westminster, 15 November 2019), an event aimed at giving exhibitors an opportunity to present their quantum technology activities and products to a large industry and government audience. NDFF capabilities and the support provided to the Quantum Communication Hub were highlighted, and the event led to several new user enquiries. Members of the NDFF consortium also exhibited research enabled by NDFF at the event (Quantum Communication Hub; U. Bristol HPNG).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.quantumcommshub.net/event/national-quantum-technologies-showcase-2019/
 
Description The 33rd Multi-Service Networks workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As an outreach activity to the wider networking community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021