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02/28/2005 - GigaPop Project Slates Ultra Fast World-Wide Connection

The same extraordinary communications infrastructure that helped Spokane be named one of the top Intelligent Communities in the world has brought Spokane to the attention of the Pacific Northwest GigaPop (PNWGP). Over the past ten years, based on Spokane area’s three hundred plus miles of optical fiber infrastructure, the region’s businesses have developed many bandwidth-intensive applications. Spokane now has one of the world’s best collections of MANs (metropolitan area networks) supporting K-20 education, healthcare, research, government, and commerce. These include: EMAN, VPnet, INHS telehealth network, and commercial applications moving terabytes of data daily. Within Spokane County, data is moved at gigabit speeds.

Gigabit speed now stops at Cheney’s western border. This is why Spokane needs a GigaPop – a gigabit point-of-presence – connecting to Seattle. GigaPops have a throughput in the range of a billion (giga) bits per second and were implemented in support of Internet2, a high-speed “next generation Internet” supported by the National Science Foundation and a project of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAD). Internet2 uses fiber optic networks for transport between GigaPops and is an OSI layer 3 meeting and distribution point between customers and network providers.

The PNWGP is managed and operated by the University of Washington (UW), and it provides connectivity to leading edge national and international communications fabric in the Pacific Northwest. It connects with Pacific LightRail, Internet2/Abilene, high performance federal networks (DID, NIH, NSF, etc.) and it is the peer-to-peer point for Pacific Rim, Canadian, and European networks.

The Eastern Washington Regional GigaPop (EWG) -- now before the Washington State legislature -- will link the region to these high performance networks, and the National LambdaRail (NLR). The NLR is a consortium of leading U. S. research universities and private sector technology companies who are creating a national networking infrastructure for network-based research. The NLR will enable applications in science, engineering and medicine. The LambdaRail gets its name from “Lambdas” which are specific light wavelengths transmitted over optical fibers. Optical networks which use a technology called Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) are based on many Lambdas, so that DWDM allows transmission of up to forty simultaneous data streams on forty separate wavelengths simultaneously. Each of these wavelengths is capable of transmitting 10 gigabits of data per second. This is about 200,000 times the speed of a dial-up Internet connection.

The EWG would begin with the deployment of a two-strand, 10 gigabit link from Spokane to the Pacific Northwest GigaPop in Seattle’s Westin Building. The two strands of fiber, carrying one Lambda, would be easily and cost effectively expandable by multiples of ten gigabits as demand grows. Today’s technology allows up to 40 channels to be allocated.

Uses for the GigaPop are limited only by the imagination. Possible applications include international education and scientific collaboration, music collaborations, film colorization, and collaborative medical research. New projects, like new technologies, protocols, services and applications can be developed in this region and evaluated by academic and federal research institutions thousands of miles away.

For more information about PNWGP, visit

Billie Moreland
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