In October 2017, the FCCN Unit started the construction of a new generation national education and research network. The RCTS100 project, whose execution ended at the end of 2022, has been extending the optical fiber infrastructure and ensuring the technological upgrade of the Science, Technology and Society Network (RCTS). At the same time, it has enabled the internal networks of nine public higher education entities to be enabled internally and to respond to the challenge of the digital divide.
With a total investment of 17 million Euros, 13 of which came from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), RCTS100 has set itself an ambitious goal: "To strengthen research, technological development, and innovation.
A network with national impact
"We support not only the Portuguese higher education system and the national science and technology system, but also the connectivity of schools of the Ministry of Education and the organic units of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education," explains the Director of the Network Services Area of the FCCN Unit, Ana Pinto.
Therefore, the technological upgrade promoted by the RCTS100 project directly impacts several communities, from the higher education and science and technology system, but also communities of a more administrative nature, linked to the ministry, and non-higher education community.
Given this very broad coverage of the national education and research network, this project guarantees a technological upgrade with national repercussion.
Response to digital divides
But the impact of RCTS100 is not limited to the activation of new routes of the optical fiber infrastructure and the upgrade of connections of several higher education institutions across the country. Thanks to this project, it was also possible to create two new rings in the network, in order to make it more scalable, both in terms of the number of services provided and in increasing redundancy and resilience to failure.
On the other hand, by standardizing access to fiber and activating an optical transmission system with national coverage, it was possible to ensure identical conditions of access to the network, regardless of the location of the entity. At this moment, RCTS teaching and research entities can already access multiple services at 100Gbps, regardless of their geographic location. Responding to the challenge of the "digital divide" [asymmetries felt, in different parts of the country, regarding the available connectivity services] is, therefore, another of the characteristics that make this project strategic for national scientific and technological development.
Over the past few months, the FCCN Unit has been sharing testimony from officials connected to several of these RCTS entities, via its blog. "The connection of the Polytechnic of Guarda to the national network of teaching and research at 100Gpbs is essential to meet the needs, "says the coordinator of the Computer Center of the Polytechnic of Guarda, João Paulo Valbom. The same idea is shared by the president of the Polytechnic of Viseu, José dos Santos Costa: "The connection of the Polytechnic of Viseu to the national network of teaching and research at 100Gpbs is extremely important".