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Backbones

The organisation and management of pan-European research and education backbone networks has always been DANTE’s core activity. See the table below for a complete overview.
  
Name Network Speed* Number of countries connected Duration 
GÉANT 2.5-10Gbps 33 2001 - 2005
GÉANT2 multi-gigabit 34 2005 - 2009
GÉANT3 100Gbps 40 2009 - 2013
PHARE  64kbps - 2Mbps  11 countries in Central and Eastern Europe (at May 1997)  1991 - 1997
TEN-155 155 - 622Mbps 23 (at November 2001) 1998 - 2001
QUANTUM Blueprint for TEN-155 1997 - 1998
TEN-34 34Mbps 17 (at November 1998) 1997 - 1998
EuroCAIRN Study Blueprint for TEN-34 1993 - 1996
EuropaNET 2 - 8Mbps 13 (at April 1997) 1992 - 1997

* Network speeds refer to those in the core backbone.

DANTE was set up at a time - the early nineties - when the first of the pan-European backbones, the International X.25 Infrastructure (IXI) pilot service, had emerged from the COSINE project. IXI started service between all the COSINE countries in July 1990.

The service was provided by PTT Telecom (Netherlands) under a contract with the European Commission (CEC). It provided an X.25 service at 64kbps to 18 access points and also had connections to the public X.25 services in nine countries.

Although technically IXI was not especially advanced, it did represent a significant step forward as a managed network providing a common service to the European national research and education networks (NRENs). It also provided valuable lessons in the creation and operation of such services.

Subsequently, the specification and tendering for a 2Mbps production service to supersede IXI resulted in the setting up in October 1992 of the European Multi-Protocol Backbone (EMPB). EMPB, provided by PTT Telecom/Unisource, offered a 2Mbps multiprotocol (X.25, IP, CLNS) service in all COSINE member states. DANTE offered connectivity to EMPB - in combination with intercontinental connectivity and gateways to the wider internet - as "EuropaNET" to its customers.

Previously, crossborder services between European countries had been the result of independent bilateral agreements between pairs of national organisations, each of which had their own technical goals and administrative constraints. The result was anarchy - and a clear inefficiency in the use of resources. To address this problem, RARE (Réseaux Associés pour la Recherche Européenne), the association of European research networks, was created in 1986.

It was always intended that services set up during the COSINE project would continue to be available after the end of its fixed lifetime in March 1993. In January 1991, RARE decided in principle to create an operational unit to manage network services for the European research community in a commercial manner. A RARE planning group proposed the creation of the operational unit as a non-profit, limited liability company and presented a detailed business case with proposals for its structure and management.

Cambridge was chosen as the location in October 1992 and Operational Unit Ltd was set up in April 1993 as an interim arrangement. The company’s name was changed to DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) Limited in June 1993. It started its activities in July 1993.

Thus DANTE took over the responsibility for the supervision of the EMPB/EuropaNET contractor (PTT Telecom/Unisource) and the further development of this service as the principal international backbone for the European research community.