With the launch of the first backbone network of the next-generation Internet in China, the country is expected to dramatically narrow its gap with the world's leaders, officials and experts said.
Eight departments of the Chinese Government announced on Saturday in Beijing that CERNET2 was going into formal operation.
"We were a learner and follower in the development of the first generation Internet, but we have caught up with world's leaders in the next-generation Internet, become a first mover, and won respect and attention from the international community," said Wu Jianping, director of the expert committee of the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) and a mastermind in the development of the next-generation Internet in China.
CERNET2 is the biggest next-generation Internet network in operation in the world and connects 25 universities in 20 cities. The speed in the backbone network reaches 2.5 to 10 gigabits per second and connects the universities at a speed of 1 to 10 gigabits per second.
A trial on CERNET2 between Beijing and Tianjin on December 7 achieved a speed of 40 gigabits per second, the highest in the world in real applications.
CERNET2 is also the first network based on pure Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) technology, one major characteristic between the current Internet and the next-generation Internet.
One big benefit of the IPv6 is to solve the problem of shortage of IP addresses. In the current Internet based on IPv4 technology, the United States controls 74 percent of 4 billion IP addresses, while the amount that China has is only equal to a campus of the University of California, despite its 80 million Internet users.
That is a major reason why Asian countries, especially China, Japan and South Korea, are showing strong interest in IPv6 technology.
The National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) set up a China Next-generation Internet (CNGI) fund of 1.4 billion yuan (US$169 million) to support six next-generation Internet networks. Half of them will be used on CERNET2-related projects. The rest of the money was given to five telecom operators.
The ministries of science and technology, information industry also have funds in related projects.
Zhang Ling, a member of Wu's committee, said 25 universities also contributed 5 million yuan (US$604,000) each to the CERNET2 project.
Gong Jian, a regional head of CERNET2 in the Southeast University in Nanjing, pointed out that if an IPv4 address has a weight of one gram, the weight of all IPv4 addresses is one 76th of the Empire State Building in New York, but the weight of all IPv6 addresses will be equal to the 56 times that of the earth.
He said most of the 25 universities connected applied for Slash48 IPv6 addresses, which are almost limitless for current needs.
CERNET2 coverage is expected to expand to 100 universities soon.
Xu Qin, deputy director general of the department of high-tech industries with NDRC, said he believed that progress in the development of CNGI will bring huge benefits of national economy and increase the country's competitiveness in national defense, economy, science and technologies.
In CERNET2, half of the key equipment, including routers, was provided by Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies and Tsinghua Bit-Way.
Zhang said the Chinese equipment has a much higher cost-performance ratio and is very strong in applications, so its future will be very good.
Huawei has already become one of the strongest competitors to Cisco, which achieved prosperity with the Internet and has a dominant position in related technologies.
(China Daily December 27, 2004)