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Fiber net spanning Pacific brings Australian network closer

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A trans-Pacific optical fiber connection that links the Pacific Northwest Gigapop (PNWGP) at the University of Washington with the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) has been activated. The super speedway will make sharing medical images

A trans-Pacific optical fiber connection that links the Pacific Northwest Gigapop (PNWGP) at the University of Washington with the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) has been activated. The super speedway will make sharing medical images faster and easier.

AARNet, the not-for-profit company that operates the network, provides Internet services to all 37 Australian universities, Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and their research and education partners. The Gigapop is a primary interconnection point for advanced research and education networks in Canada, the U.S., and now the Pacific Rim.

"The most important achievement in bridging this transoceanic digital divide will be our newly acquired ability to traffic in high-quality remote sense, video, sound, and multimedia material as well as in huge scientific data sets and other demanding digital objects like medical images," said George McLaughlin, AARNet's executive director. "The network allows the Australian research community to enjoy rapid and efficient access to advanced research resources and apparatus in Canada and the U.S."

The network consists of twin 155 Mbps connections traversing physically diverse paths running MLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), which provides redundant capacity while retaining the ability to load balance and potential data bursts up to 310 Mbps.

The cable, which took 19 months to lay, stretches nearly 20,000 miles under the Pacific Ocean, emerging at docking ports in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hawaii, Oregon, and California in the U.S.

The network provides quality of service and virtual private network capabilities. The first connections through PNWGP will be to CA?net 3 and Internet2 backbone networks, the advanced Canadian and U.S. research and education networks, respectively.

"This network should allow digitized video pictures of ultrasound images to be transmitted internationally," said Dr. Peter Yellowlees, director of the Queensland Telemedicine Network. "We already do fetal ultrasound teleradiology on ISDN (integrated services digital network), and we will be able to perform these sorts of assessments globally, in real-time."

Yellowlees hopes to expand Internet capabilities soon to include angiography and a variety of other videoradiographic applications, as well as endoscopies.

"We're particularly interested in 3-D applications for diagnosis and teaching purposes, as well as for surgical planning prior to difficult operations and for second opinions," he said. "We intend to use the initial data from Visible Human Project to assist in this."

The National Library of Medicine's Visible Human Project is a digital image data set of complete human male and female cadavers in MRI, CT, and anatomical modes.

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