1. Purpose, constitution and organisation
“TENET” is a registered short name for the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (RF) - NPC. TENET was created in August 2000 by the public universities of South Africa as the organisational home of and vehicle for collaborative internetworking by universities, science councils and associated support institutions (“the institutions”), replacing the then UNINET Project of the then Foundation for Research Development.
TENET was originally incorporated under the Companies Act as what was then called a “Section 21 Company”. Recent amendments to the Companies Act led TENET to re-incorporate as a non-profit company with members. It is recognised by SARS as a Public Benefit Organisation that is exempt from income tax.
TENET holds electronic communications licenses from ICASA that permit TENET to build and operate electronic communications networks, including optical fibre networks, and to provide electronic communications services to other parties.
TENET is a founder member of the UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking, the regional research and education network organisation for eastern and southern Africa. The Alliance provides TENET (and other African NRENs) with connectivity in London and Amsterdam to other research and education networks of the World and to the Internet worldwide.
TENET does not provide services to commercial entities and does not participate in the commercial market for Internet services.
All public universities and science councils qualify to participate in TENET’s governance as members.
TENET is managed by a Board of 13 Directors, 11 of whom are elected by the members. The Chairperson and CEO are appointed by the Board and are also Directors.
Operational control is delegated to the CEO who is supported by three other executive officers and eleven other staff members. TENET makes substantial use of expert consultants.
Eleven members of staff, including the executive officers, are based at the head office in Wynberg, Cape Town. The other four staff members are based at TENET’s Network Operations Centre in Johannesburg.
2. Service provision
Currently TENET provides Internet and related services to some 170 campuses of 55 institutions. TENET enters into a formal service agreement (called the “REN Service Agreement”) with each institution, which sets out TENET’s service level obligations, specifies ordering, billing and payment processes, and binds the institutions to compliance with Acceptable Use and Connection policies.
TENET recovers the full cost of service delivery through service charges that its Board sets from time to time. In aggregate, service charges billed to institutions during 2012 amounted to some R112m.
TENET enjoys no subvention of its operating costs by Government or donors.
3. Network Infrastructure
The core of the NREN network that TENET operates is the South African National Research Network (“SANReN”) that has been deployed over the past six years by the Meraka Institute of the CSIR under contract to the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
SANReN comprises a national backbone, several metropolitan rings, and some dedicated long-haul circuits to reach important research installations. These components are described briefly below. More information is available on the SANReN website (www.sanren.ac.za).
The SANReN national backbone was provided to Meraka by Telkom SA and commissioned in December 2009. It comprises a 10 Gbps backbone ring interconnecting nodes at Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban (and back to Pretoria). The backbone has since been extended to reach remoter towns, including Butterworth, Kimberley, Mafikeng, Makhado, Middelburg, Mthatha, Nelspuit, Polokwane, Potchefstroom, Vanderbijlpark and Welkom. These extensions use circuits provided by Neotel and Telkom.
Dark Fibre Africa supplied SANReN’s optical fibre ring networks in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban that were fully commissioned by 2010. In aggregate they connect some 90 urban campuses to the backbone. Dedicated access circuits includes 10 Gbps long-haul circuits to the radio astronomy and space operations centres at Hartebeeshoek; the astronomical observatory at Sutherland and the developing radio astronomy site at Carnarvon.
The NREN network also includes access circuits that TENET itself provides for many campuses. These include optical fibre access circuits that connect six campuses, each to its nearest SANReN node, including the main campuses of MINTEK, Monash SA and the University of Zululand, and major satellite campuses of UJ Soweto, UNISA Florida and WITS Baragwanath.
TENET connects a number of campuses via low-speed rented access circuits, and some 36 smaller sites via ADSL lines and a shared connection between Telkom’s ADSL network and the TENET gateway in Johannesburg.
TENET uses two different submarine circuits to provide intercontinental connectivity to the UbuntuNet network in Europe. These are:
A 10 Gb/s circuit on the SEACOM submarine cable that terminates at the SEACOM Landing Station at Mtunzini( and is extended from there redundantly to the SANReN backbone node at Durban), and at the UbuntuNet Hub in Amsterdam ; and
A 10 Gb/s circuit on the WACS submarine cable that terminates at the SANReN backbone node in Cape Town and at the UbuntuNet Hub in Telecity, London. (TENET’s WACS capacity is rented from WIOCC.)
TENET’s SEACOM capacity was acquired in 2007 when TENET purchased the indefeasible right of use (IRU), for the life of the cable, to a 10 Gbps circuit to London on the then recently announced SEACOM cable system. The SEACOM IRU is a long-lived capital asset, the $20m purchase price of which was financed by 27 of the institutions.
The SEACOM circuit was commissioned in July 2009, and from Jan 2010, when the SANReN backbone became available, it has enabled the institutions to afford dramatically greater international bandwidths. Inbound intercontinental traffic flows on normal working days in the first part of 2013 peaked at over 6 Gb/s, which represents a 24-fold increase since October 2009.
TENET secures global interconnectivity with other NRENs and with the Internet worldwide through the London and Amsterdam gateways of the UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking . At these gateways UbuntuNet has interconnections with the European research and education network, GÉANT, and hence with other NRENs worldwide, and also to the major London and Amsterdam Internet Exchanges.
TENET is an honorary member of the South African Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) and has peering interconnections with most South African ISPs at ISPA’s Internet Exchanges in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
4. Collaboration with the SANReN Program
TENET collaborates systematically with the SANReN Competency Area (CA) of the Meraka Institute, which is charged by the DST with the deployment of SANReN. Under the terms of a Collaboration Agreement signed in July 2013 (superseding an earlier agreement that expired in March 2013) the two organisations work together in growing the reach and capability of SANReN. In terms of this agreement, the SANReN CA is primarily responsible for deploying infrastructure and for developing advanced services in collaboration with the beneficiary community, while TENET is primarily responsible for the operational management of the network and all the services delivered across it.
5. Other network operations
Apart from operating the entire NREN network infrastructure described in the previous section, TENET operates UbuntuNet gateways in London and Amsterdam, under contract with the UbuntuNet Alliance; provides a 10 Gbps interconnection between these two gateways, and provides UbuntuNet with international transit and peering at both gateways. To this end TENET is a member of the London Internet Exchange (LINX) and the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX).
TENET’s Network Operations Centre (NOC) is located in rented premises on the Main Campus of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The provision of fault reporting and other help desk services at any time of the day or night is outsourced to a larger operator.
6. Subsidiary functions
TENET fulfils three associated subsidiary functions of an operational nature.
First, TENET acts as a Local Internet Registry that manages allocations of IPv4 and IPv6 address ranges within the AfriNIC domain. TENET makes assignments from these ranges for use by campuses that use TENET’s Internet services.
Second, TENET is recognised by the ZA Domain Name Authority as the administrator and moderator of the AC.ZA Internet Domain. In this capacity TENET assigns sub-domain names to qualifying institutions, as a public service.
Third, TENET seeks donations to fund capacity development programs. Through the Tides Foundation, Google, Inc made a sizable grant to TENET, which is being used to fund several developmental projects.
7. Rural Campus Connectivity Project
During 2012 the DHET made funds available to HESAto connect rural university campuses via high-speed connections to the extended SANReN backbone. HESA has appointed TENET as the implementation agent for this project. Termed at its inception the Rural Campus Connectivity Project (RCCP), this project is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.
8. African Research and Education Networking
TENET will continue to support the UbuntuNet Alliance and the development of UbuntuNet’s network within Eastern and Southern Africa. In particular, TENET is participating (as a contributor rather than as a beneficiary) with UbuntuNet in the European Commission’s AfricaConnect project.
9. The Service Development Challenge
TENET’s focus has been on the challenge of securing ever more Internet bandwidth for the beneficiary institutions at ever better unit prices. However the substantive deregulation of telecommunications in South Africa means that bandwidth will become a commodity and the unique value that TENET and SANReN can offer in future will depend less and less on securing compelling price advantages and rather on the provision of specialised, targeted value-added services that universities and research institutions require. Such services include, for example, the use of very highspeed but temporary, un-routed point-to-point circuits (“light paths”) for moving very large datasets to or from anywhere in the World; high quality videoconferencing; and the establishment of trust federations in which many institutions agree to provide each others’ staff and students access with access to each others’ electronic resources, including but not limited to library and computing resources, using federated authentication and authorisation schemes.