January 30, 2003
McGill University and its project partners today launched the Agile All-Photonic Networks (AAPN) research network. This 5-year project is Canada's most far-reaching research initiative aimed at providing the benefits of all-photonic, fibre optic networks to the telecommunications industry and eventually to all users of the Internet. AAPN is made possible by one of the largest grants available from the Government of Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for this type of project: $7 million over 5 years.
"Communication is an area where Canada has long been a world leader," said the Honourable Joan Fraser, Senator for De Lorimier, who announced the launch of the AAPN Research Network on behalf of Industry Minister Allan Rock. "The exciting innovations that will be driven by this impressive collaboration will add considerably to Canada's reputation for research excellence and world-class discoveries."
"McGill University is pleased to be both the host and a partner in this cutting-edge research project in the field of photonics," commented Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal of McGill University. "The AAPN project spans Ontario and Quebec universities and companies and truly exemplifies today's new multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to research."
AAPN aims to develop next-generation photonic networks that will be required to support the ever-increasing demand for Internet-based products and services. From the interactive video-linked home workspace to the cyber-shopping mall to the library that accesses any book, magazine, newspaper or film in the world, the range of such new services that can be foreseen is tremendous - provided that the necessary bandwidth is made available to the end-user.
"We will dramatically increase optical network capacity by bringing all-photonic networks as close to the end-user as possible," explained AAPN's scientific director, Dr David V. Plant, James McGill Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University. "These networks will enable information-carrying light streams to travel unimpeded by electronic switching and in doing so will make optimum use of the capacity of fibre optics."
Key to achieving the AAPN Research Network's goals will be the development of an efficient all-photonic switch. In existing networks, switches along the paths of data-carrying light streams redirect information by converting the light streams to electrical signals for processing and routing, and then reconvert them back to light before they continue on their intended trajectories. These conversions slow down connections and are a major shortcoming of current network technology.
The AAPN switch to be developed will avoid this light-to-electricity conversion step and will operate at high speeds and be able to handle large volumes of broadband communications. When combined with new network architectures that make optimal use of the switching technology, a new dynamic system can be achieved - this can be termed an 'agile' all-photonic network.
"Within the next decade, all-photonic functions will be a key part of networks that carry the world's vast amount of broadband communications," predicts Jocelyn Lauzon, Director for Photonics, Fibres, and Lasers at Quebec City-based INO, speaking on behalf of the AAPN partners. "As such, it is critical for Canada's telecommunications industry to be at the forefront of this evolution. Our collaboration with leading edge university researchers in the AAPN Research Network will help to keep us in the vanguard of technological developments in the field."
To that end, the Agile All-Photonic Networks project has assembled a unique cross-sector team of network architects and component specialists, focusing on developing next-generation network architectures, switching technologies, and transmission and amplification solutions. "Having this much expertise across the spectrum of requisite technologies all working toward one goal is a major AAPN strength", noted Dr. Plant.
The AAPN Research Network is the most collaborative and comprehensive project of its kind in Canada. It brings together five Canadian universities (McGill, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, Queen's and McMaster), three federal research laboratories (NRC's Institute for Microstructural Sciences, Industry Canada's Communications Research Centre and Canadian Microelectronics Corporation) and seven private Canadian companies (Innovance Networks, Tropic Networks, JDS Uniphase, Bragg Photonics, Institut National d'Optique (INO), ITF Optical Technologies and Adtek Photomask).
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