What is NDFF?

The National Dark Fibre Facility (NDFF) provides a dedicated dark fibre network connecting selected UK universities with research networks in Europe and worldwide via telecommunications facilities in London.

A EPSRC-funded mid-range facility

The National Dark Fibre Facility (NDFF) is an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) National Research Facility, established in 2014 to enable researchers to develop the underpinning communications technologies for the future internet. EPSRC has provided £2.5 Million to fund the project. Following a competitive tendering process, the 5 years contract for NDFF has been awarded to UCL as prime contractor for a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Southampton. 

Aurora2 fibre network

NDFF will provide access to a dedicated dark fibre network connecting these universities, with onward connection to European and Worldwide research networks via telecommunications facilities in London, as shown in Figure 1. 

diagram of NDFF network 2022

Figure 1. NDFF network logical diagram

The fibre paths linking the Universities, comprising some 1,000 km of single mode fibre, together with control and monitoring systems, will be provided to NDFF by Janet, part of the JISC group, funded by BIS through its e-Infrastructure programme. Researchers in the UK will be able to access the new network, to be named Aurora2, both directly by placing equipment at consortium sites and remotely using the Janet Lightpath service.

Directly controllable network components

The network is engineered with equipment that can be configured remotely and dynamically, and will be a pioneering example of a Software Defined Network (SDN).

  • 32x32 MEMs and 16x16 MEMs optical switches
  • Optical amplifiers
  • Layer 2 access control switch and 10 Gbps SFP+ (80 km)
  • NDFF server

DCMs will be installed at remote sites to compensate chromatic dispersion. 

User community

Researchers can access the Aurora2 network (see node hardware), both directly by installing equipment at a host university, or by attaching to the network remotely through the Janet Lightpath service.


Figure 2. User group and access to NDFF

The NDFF Aurora2 research network can be used by a wide range of users, including EPSRC funded researchers, industrial partners, other public bodies and overseas research collaborators.

Please note that NDFF provides the Aurora2 network as a platform for networks research. Aurora2 is not a production network for the provision of data transmission services. If your research requires data transmission services rather than research on future transmission networks you may be able to make use of production networks provided by Janet, see https://www.ja.net.