Optimal network ring design is a difficult problem characterised by the requirement tocompare a large number of potential solutions (network designs). The problem of networkring design can be described as consisting of three parts: routing, link capacity assignmentand ring determination. It has traditionally been broken down into a number of subproblems,solved in sequence, and usually by heuristics, thereby leading to locally‐optimal designsolutions. Genetic Algorithms (GAs) have shown themselves to be efficient at searchinglarge problem spaces and have been successfully used in a number of engineering problemareas, including telecommunications network design. We present an approach of a GA tothe network ring design problem in which the GA representation encapsulates all aspects ofthe problem and solves them simultaneously. A novel, hybrid bit and permutation representationis described, along with the fitness function for the design problem. Results ofapplying this representation to a number of test networks are presented and compared withheuristic design methods.