Kent State Awarded $1.25 Million to Help Build Research and Education Network in Bangladesh

Advanced optical superhighway will connect Bangladesh universities with institutions around the world

Advanced optical superhighway will connect Bangladesh universities with institutions around the world so scientists, scholars and students can use cutting-edge technology to compute and communicate with colleagues in any country.

An international partnership between Kent State University, the Ohio Academic Resource Network (OARnet) and Ireland’s National Research and Education Network (HEAnet) has been selected to provide advanced technical expertise in building the Bangladesh Research and Education Network (BdREN) through an international competition.

Kent State recently finalized the agreement under which the university will receive $1.25 million over the next three years. Engineers and experts from both sides will collaborate extensively in planning the advanced network, which is being financed by the World Bank.

Javed Khan, Ph.D., professor of Kent State’s Department of Computer Science and an expert in advanced networking, will lead the project as the principal investigator.

“Research and education networks, originally inspired by US Internet2, are among the most functionally advanced networks in the world, but they also serve as a type of live research lab to test future technologies,” Khan said.

It is very difficult to lay conventional underground optical fiber networks in Bangladesh, so the network will be implemented using electrical power line-borne fiber. The multi-gigabyte network will gradually expand to provide full optical interconnect capability among all universities and research facilities of Bangladesh. It also will be connected regionally and globally to other higher education networks around the world via Trans-Eurasia Information Network.

The project is part of a larger initiative to eventually connect universities across the world via ultra-speed networks and linkages. The project will significantly broaden collaborative opportunities and access to advanced research tools and resources for researchers in Bangladesh.  

During the construction of the network, Kent State representatives will share knowledge with partner universities in Bangladesh to modernize campus networks and information services. The collaboration also will provide Kent State researchers and their partners an opportunity to expand scientific and educational collaborations.

“The success of this initiative shows that our researchers are second to none and are making an impact internationally,” said Kent State’s Vice President for Research Grant McGimpsey. “We are currently putting together several coalitions to compete in other new and non-traditional areas.”

The BdREN network, with its state-of-the-art, high-performance links, will provide network connections to geographically dispersed academics, scientists and researchers. “This will be an important milestone for the higher education system of Bangladesh since its independence in 1971,” Khan said. “It will also help in addressing the digital divide in higher education.”

OARnet, created in 1987 by the Ohio Board of Regents, is one of the most sophisticated superscale networks in the country, consisting of more than 1,850 miles of fiber-optic backbone. The network provides connectivity to Ohio’s colleges and universities, K-12 schools, public broadcasting stations and academic medical centers.

Ireland’s HEAnet has been in operation since 1983 and provides internet connectivity and services to the country’s schools and universities. HEAnet has significant experience in operating a power line-based overhead optical network similar to the one planned in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is experiencing rapid modernization and capacity expansion of its higher education infrastructure. Its higher education system has approximately 100 engineering, medical and agricultural universities and colleges administered by the country’s University Grants Commission (UGC).

The Bangladesh project originated from a concept paper prepared by Khan in 2005 and supported by U.S. Fulbright Senior Specialist funding.  

Khan and Kent State’s Associate Vice President for Research Satyendra Kumar conducted in-depth discussions and on-site negotiations with UGC representatives in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. “The negotiations were a real collective effort,” Kumar said. “Both sides worked very hard to successfully conclude the discussions conducted over three days.”

The Kent State team included Sonia Alemagno, former interim vice president for research and current dean of the College of Public Health; Connie Hawke, associate counsel and associate vice president for government relations; and Lori Burchard, director of sponsored programs.

“Our team was on call around the clock to respond to our queries from Dhaka,” Kumar said. “Kent State negotiators and the Bangladesh team, led by UGC members Amena Begum, Tajul Islam, Muhibur Rahman and Project Director Kaniz Fatema, worked diligently till 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning to finalize this international contract.”

The Kent State researchers and their partners are thinking big.

“It is our dream to get the universities of the world connected so scholars, researchers and students can communicate with colleagues in every country with the best possible communication media,” Khan said. “That’s the future we’re envisioning.”

More information on the project will be available at Kent State’s Media Communications and Networking Research Lab website

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POSTED: Friday, January 4, 2013 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 11:52am
Bob Burford