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Fujitsu’s Optical Fibre Installation Links e-MERLIN Seven-Telescope Network

Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe’s infrastructure installation expertise contributes to success of ground-breaking radio telescope network.

May 14, 2009

Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Limited, a leading supplier of IT and Networking Solutions, reports that its long-distance optical fibre installation has enabled the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory to receive the first signals from its e-MERLIN network of seven radio telescopes, which are located around the UK up to 217km apart. Fujitsu’s Carrier Services teams handled the construction of the civils infrastructure (using both traditional trenching methods and trenchless technology) and the subsequent fibre installation of some 80km of new fibre for e-MERLIN, linking into existing dark-fibre resources, with the project illustrating the company’s infrastructure planning and implementation capabilities.

The University of Manchester’s ultra-high speed e-MERLIN network, delivering data rates in the order of 150Gb per second, will enable radio astronomers to conduct their research within dramatically shortened timescales – typically concentrating three years’ worth of observations into a single day. To help achieve this level of performance, Fujitsu worked closely with the University of Manchester and dark-fibre operator Global Crossing, to plan and construct the new optical fibre network to the required capacity and budget, undertaking all aspects of the infrastructure installation.

Fujitsu’s challenge was to create a network that followed the most efficient route, creating the least disturbance to landowners, while ensuring it could be accomplished with the minimum practical expenditure. Shaun Clifford, Operations Manager – Carrier Services, at Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe, explained:

“Having helped determine how the network should be constructed, our task involved researching and planning the optimum route for the new fibre, which had to link each of e-MERLIN’s seven radio telescope sites to the nearest dark-fibre connection point. Our engineers walked each route, to determine the least-disruptive path for the fibre, and we handled the necessary negotiations with land agents, utilities and highways agencies. Wherever possible, we used techniques that would ensure minimum disruption, such as direct drilling on farmland to avoid disturbing crops and livestock.

“In addition to meeting the e-MERLIN technical requirements, we had to make the new fibre as durable as possible, installing ducts well below the surface to minimise the risk of future disturbance to the network. Once the ducting was in the ground for each section, we blew the fibre into place – this technique also kept the need for jointing the fibre to a minimum, and therefore contributed to the integrity of the data transmission and to maintaining the project within the University of Manchester’s desired target budget.

“We completed the project across a 12-month period, and we’re very proud to have contributed in some way to the progress of leading-edge science, and our understanding of the most distant regions of our universe.”

The ‘first light’ data, received via the e-MERLIN network at the Jodrell Bank site in Cheshire, UK, enabled the successful processing of signals from two of the telescopes in the seven-telescope network. The data capacity of e-MERLIN, which will carry as much data as the rest of the UK Internet combined, will ease astronomers’ task of making detailed radio images of distant stars and galaxies. Astronomers from over 100 institutes in more than 20 countries have expressed strong interest in conducting research with the e-MERLIN network, which uses a total of 600km of high-speed optical fibre – operated by Global Crossing, and with essential site-to-site links installed by Fujitsu. The e-MERLIN network, together with new electronics at each telescope and a powerful new ‘correlator’ that combines the data at Jodrell Bank, will make the University of Manchester’s radio telescope network one of the most powerful of its type in the world.

e-MERLIN is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA), The University of Manchester, the University of Cambridge and Liverpool John Moores University. (For more information about e-MERLIN please see:

Georgina Garrett/Simon Axford Jones

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Date: 14 May, 2009