GÉANT was borne of three key factors: the increasing need for international research collaboration, the introduction of the European Research Area (ERA) and the European telecoms liberalisation.
The need for collaboration: Research projects increasingly operate on an international scale. In the 1990s, Europe’s national research networks had a pressing need to interconnect in order for Europe to compete with other regions, such as the USA.
Cornerstone of the ERA and the Digital Agenda for Europe: Introduced by the EU in 2000, the aim of the European Research Area (ERA) was to create a common market for research, fostering multinational collaboration. Technology is at the heart of the ERA; for example underpinning grid computing, which links powerful computers together to harness processing power and consequently solve problems faster. GÉANT was designed to be a breakthrough infrastructure within the ERA, providing the power to integrate European research and forcefully driving co-operation.
Freeing up the telecoms market: EU-led liberalisation of the European telecoms market provided the catalyst to deliver vital international connectivity for the ERA. From 1999 legislation opened previously closed markets to competition, enabling the birth of GÉANT on 1 November 2000.
Funded by the EU and Europe’s NRENs, the network was built in less than a year, securely interconnecting with partner NRENs. Over the next decade, the available capacity on the network for researchers was increased by a factor of 60 from 155 Mbps to 10 Gbps.