In 1989, Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) was established as a not-for-profit licensed telecommunications carrier. Owned by the universities and the CSIRO, it was responsible for pioneering the nation’s internet as well as for being the architect, builder, and operator of world-class network infrastructure for the research and education communities. Today, the organisation continues to play a critical role within society, connecting over one million local and international users via its high-quality information communications technology.

CEO Chris Hancock joined AARNet in 2004 and has seen the company evolve considerably over that time.

In the early days, he recalls, there was a team of just a dozen people, which has since swelled to over 70. “We were initially a very small telco provider, and the big difference was that we used to purchase our capacity from one of the big commercial players. It was almost like a ‘buying club’ on behalf of all of Australia’s universities.

“Since then, the massive changes we have made to AARNet have grown it considerably. When I joined, we were struggling to extend beyond being an experimental network provider. We were at a capacity of kilobits per second, and now we provide more than 40 100-gigabit-per-second-links around the nation. Today, our assets are in the order of $250 million and the scale of the company is very different. We now serve a number of sectors within the research and education communities in Australia. That means not only the universities and the CSIRO, but we also connect and work with schools, the TAFE–VET sector, the medical sector, hospitals, medical research, and the cultural institutions, or GLAM as we call it—galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. We have broadened our reach in order to drive the collaborations of the entire research and education space.”