Quietly increasing the University's connection to the internet

In the best tradition of network improvements, a major network upgrade took place this summer so quietly that few noticed. The University’s internet link went from 40Gbps (Gigabits per second) to 100Gbps early one Tuesday morning without a hitch.

Keeping up with demand

The University’s demand for bandwidth seems insatiable. Three years ago, we doubled our capacity from 20Gbps to 40Gbps and from that upgrade through to Trinity term 2022 the average daily bandwidth usage increased by 41%. This summer’s upgrade to a resilient 100Gbps provision will again help us to cope with this ever-increasing demand.

The reasons for the University’s large appetite for bandwidth are many. Research is one factor with one research group alone increasing its requirements to 20Gbps over the summer. Another is streaming video, whether this is for communication and collaboration (e.g. Teams, Zoom or Meet), education (LinkedIn, lectures or YouTube), or recreational purposes (Amazon, Netflix, TikTok, YouTube etc.). In September, eduroam (our Wi-Fi network) connected over 100,000 unique devices or the equivalent of nearly three devices for every member of the University. On the first day of full term, eduroam alone carried over 70 Terabytes of data. That’s enough to stream nearly 30,000 hours of high definition movies in one day.

We have also greatly increased the coverage in the Old Bodleian Library (including the Radcliffe Camera). Just on the first day of full term we had over 5,200 device connections in that area alone.

Delivering the upgrade

Networks staff continually monitor bandwidth use across the University to keep pace with this ever-increasing demand. This enables them to forecast future need and start developing plans to increase capacity. An upgrade of this nature does not happen overnight, in fact the teams involved in this project were working on it for 2 years. Upgrading to a 100Gbps internet link is still relatively uncommon, so it required careful planning from start to finish. Working with impacted teams and our supplier, Jisc, specialist equipment was sourced, rigorous testing undertaken and a deployment plan delivered, all the while assessing and managing the impact of the change on our customers.

So, as you attend meetings online, converse online with colleagues, friends and family around the world, or just send them a WhatsApp, spare a thought for the network engineers and technicians who are working hard, but so quietly, behind the scenes to keep all those bits flowing.