Full description of TENET's purposes, activities and relationships with other entities

1. Purpose, constitution and organisation

“TENET” is a registered short name for the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa 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”. Subsequent 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.It also holds multiple ICASA spectrum licences for specific points of service delivery, primarily to rural areas.

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 with connectivity in London and Amsterdam to many research and education networks of the World.

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 several other staff members. TENET makes substantial use of expert consultants.

Most members of staff, including the executive officers, are based at the head office in Wynberg, Cape Town. A small number of engineering staff members are based in Johannesburg.

2. Service provision

Currently TENET provides Internet and related services to more than 300 campuses of 85 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 2017 amounted to some R145m.

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 ten years by the Meraka Institute of the CSIR under contract to the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

SANReN comprises a national backbone, multiple metropolitan rings, and extensive 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 original 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 multiple smaller sites via ADSL lines and a shared connection between Telkom’s ADSL network and the TENET gateway in Johannesburg.

TENET uses multiple submarine circuits to provide intercontinental connectivity. The primary systems in use are:

60 Gb/s 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 TENET router in Amsterdam; and

50 Gb/s on the WACS submarine cable that terminates at the SANReN backbone node in Cape Town and at TENET's router at Telecity, London. The WACS capacity available to TENET was procured by the CSIR in 2014 through the purchase from Braodband Infraco of approximately 8% of the cable system's capacity.

TENET’s SEACOM capacity was initially 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.This capacity was increased to 60 Gb/s in 2017 by means of a capacity swap.

TENET secures global interconnectivity through its own presence in London and Amsterdam, which includes membership of major Internet Exchanges as well as transit contracts with two major transit providers. Traffic with other NRENs is exchanged 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. TENET provides the UbuntuNet Alliance with some use of its commodity Internet connections in both cities.

Domestically, TENET maintains a presence at all three Teraco sites and the associated NAPAfrica peering exchanges, from which it reaches major sources of inbound traffic through peering arrangements. TENET also maintains peering interconnections with most South African ISPs at ISPA’s Internet Exchanges in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

TENET is an honorary member of the South African Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA).

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 the South African NREN. 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 services

TENET operates a growing portfolio of additional services. These include a videoconferencing service, using the Vidyo platform, free at the point of use to all beneficiaries; a webconferncing service, using the mconf platform; a national ORCID consortium; the eduroam service; SAFIRE (South African Federated Identity for Research and Education); and a suite of certification services. All these services are developed collaborativly with the SANReN team, or, in some cases (mconf, SAFIRE, eduroam), originated by them and passed to TENET.

6. Subsidiary functions

TENET fulfils two 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.

7. Rural Campus Connectivity Project

TENET acted as implementation agent for HESA (now USAf) in both RCCP I and II.

8. The Service Development Challenge

TENET’s focus during its first fifteen years was on the challenge of securing ever more Internet bandwidth for the beneficiary institutions at ever better unit prices. Highly affordable bandwidth in large volumes remaims a key objective. 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. TENET's growing portfolio of value-added services has been a primary response to this challenge. Future initiatives will include brokered cloud services and other specialised digital services.