Jonathan Ordman is surfing a wave of interest in wireless that offers resellers lucrative opportunities to recommend high-value solutions.
Ordman, director of Australian wi-fi technology distributor Wavelink, says that although health, law, finance and engineering are performing well, “education is a big one”.
CRN collected examples of how the channel is surfing this wave, such as at Sydney’s Trinity Grammar that deployed 360 iPads to staff and students on an Aruba wi-fi network.
“One of the most undeniable facts is that the number of mobile devices is not going away,” says Ordman, who was not involved in the Trinity project. “So the need to provide high-density, high-speed wireless is only going to increase exponentially.”
But wi-fi networks are prone to dropouts, roaming issues and as a shared resource struggle under intense bandwidth loads; mobile cellular networks have performance issues and cost is a factor that limits their use.
Carriers such as Telstra and Optus are rolling out long-term evolution or 4G mobile services to ease congestion and opening up wider use of bandwidth- hog applications such as video conferencing.
Telstralsays its mobile data traffic has doubled year on year since the 2006 launch of its 3G network.
Telstra executive director of networks Mike Wright says new devices will test capacity.
“Traditionally, the majority of mobile data has come from dongles connected to PCs but smartphones and tablets are changing this,” Wright says. As is the growth of connected devices such as GPS, e-books, digital cameras and embedded systems.
“When you double the screen size you use four times the data,” Wright adds.
New CSIRO technology could be the answer. Distributed input, distributed output, or DIDO, wireless systems could deliver 100 megabits a second to users within 60 kilometres of a tower.
DIDO has triggered debate as to whether wireless may supplant fixed networks.
Earlier this year opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said that wireless technologies could render much of National Broadband Network infrastructure redundant.
Gartner research vice president Geoff Johnson doubts that wireless will replace fixed networks, however: “It will always be a complimentary technology – the only question is what sort of mix”.
The head of Cisco’s Australian health practice, Brendan Lovelock, says wireless is important in hospitals and other health organisations to improve efficiency and care. And it was critical to ensure clinicians got the benefits from digital health records that governments propose.
“Information needs to be delivered at the point of care and wireless is a great at enabling that to occur,” Lovelock says.
Wavelink’s Ordman says that a big opportunity for the channel is in providing wi-fi wireless solutions to exhibition centres and stadiums.
“Sydney Exhibition Centre turns off its wi-fi when they have conferences because they can’t handle the load,” Ordman says.
And wireless integrators can help carriers manage the strain on networks from larger data volumes during popular events.
For many hospitality organisations, wireless is synonymous with high levels of customer service. Thanks to the recent deployment of a wi-fi solution from DLink, the Rydges Hotel in North Sydney says it is one of the first in its area to provide free wireless to visitors and guests in public areas.
Managing wi-fi contention is a big problem, Ordman says. The traditional way was to make a network of micro cells with alternating channels but that suffers under load. Ordman: “It’s like having big room of people talking all at once”.
US wireless vendor and Wavelink partner Meru has claims to have a solution that creates virtual cells to enable access points to be managed on the same channel. In a typical wi-fi environment, the speed limit is set by the slowest device on the network. Merus claims Skype – now owned by Microsoft – among its wireless local network users.
Security is another concern, says Gartner research vice president Geoff Johnson.
“Enterprises are scared,” Johnson says. ‘But the issue isn’t technical management; it’s that people don’t deploy the security solutions available to them.”
Here is an opening for resellers to hold their customer’s hand organisations to ensure they use secure solutions. But Johnson cautioned that resellers hoping to succeed here must know the technology thoroughly in respect of their customer’s needs.
Low-earth satellites patch outback gaps in NBN plan
Farmers and remote communities can expect better call quality, less latency and fewer dropouts on their satellite phones after the second launch of satellites for the upgraded Globalstar network.
The “low-earth” Globalstar satellites would not compete with the satellite service provided to rural Australia under the National Broadband Network but would offer complementary services for mobile users, Peter Bolger, managing director of Australian satellite telecommunications provider Pivotel, said.
The NBN planned to use geostationary satellites in orbit 36,000 kilometres above the earth. Globalstar’s satellites sit in a much lower orbit, only 1400 kilometres up. The shorter distance means much lower latency which was essential for good call quality and some business applications, Bolger says.
Low-earth satellites act in a similar way to cellular network towers which hand a signal from one tower to the next as a mobile user changes location.
“Farmers will use the NBN satellite for internet to the premises. Globalstar satellites are targeted primarily at mobile users,” Bolger says. Business users may also prefer the lower latency connection for accessing their applications and servers remotely.
“Many corporate applications which talk to servers absolutely require the delay between the laptop and the server is kept to a minimum. Certain things don’t work well over geostationary satellites,” Bolger says. “These applications we see around the place are being designed for mobile phones on 3G and 4G networks. It’s important if people are going to enjoy the same productivity applications in the bush.”
Applications included asset management, such as tracking vehicles on large mines, and safety. “It’s becoming incredibly popular these days,” Bolger says. “There’s enormous growth for satellite-based monitoring and tracking.”
Although the NBN satellites would provide a 12 megabits a second downstream amd a megabit a second upstream connection compared to 256 kilobit service (symmetric) for Globalstar after the upgrade, the latter was a dedicated link and not shared with other users.
Bolger says the latest satellites will last 15 years, twice as long as the ones they are replacing. He adds it is possible to increase speeds to be comparable with 4G without needing to upgrade the satellites, which were “just transponders”.
Data#3 conducts network transplant at Mater Hospital
Cisco turned around a busy hospital’s network from seriously ill to full recovery
A few years ago the IT managers at South Brisbane’s Mater Hospital all agreed that the organisation’s network was in a critical condition.
And with more than 7000 staff servicing half a million patients every year it couldn’t afford to just sit on its hands.
“We were challenged by the very heterogeneous network environment we had,” says Mater chief information officer Mal Thatcher. “We had bits and pieces of just about every vendor you could imagine.”
Ultimately the decision was made to rip and replace all the bits and pieces of kits with the one homogenous platform, courtesy of Cisco and its integrator partner Data#3.
A key part of the infrastructure is the hospital’s wi-fi network which is made up of over 1000 Cisco 1131 ‘g’ and ‘a’ wireless access points delivering speeds of between 10-20 mebagits a second.
At a minimum it is typically supporting some 500 laptops, 100 BlackBerrys, 500 Cisco 7925 VoIP handsets, 100 smartphones, as well as other devices including a small but growing number of iPads, not to mention a growing number of portable biomedical devices.
“Mobility is a key issue in the healthcare environment,” Thatcher says. But he admits that the hospital made a bit of a gamble in moving to an IP-based wireless solution given that the technology it yet to be full tested in hospital environments.
“It was a bit of a gamble that an IP platform would be a key enabler,” Thatcher says.
“We are still seeing a lack of maturity around mobility solution in healthcare.”
A key challenge of the deployment was trying to maximise the range of the devices in the face of myriad physical obstacles. For instance you can’t assume an access point with
a theoretical range of 30 metres will actually give that distance. “It is impacted by buildings, filing cabinets, furniture and the like: it’s a bit hit and miss,” Thatcher notes. “Coverage is a huge issue.”
Nevertheless, the demands placed on mobile networks by hospital’s are increasing with Mater’s doctors and nurses increasingly needing immediate access to bigger and bigger digital records of everything from radiology and pathology reports to MRI scans and xrays.
In fact a number of the departments including neo natal and paediatric intensive care have become completely paperless as part of the hospital’s health records portal project.
One of the key requirements for the wireless network was that it also be able to handle video. “We decided to approach the IP platform from the perspective of not just data but also voice and video,” Thatcher patients served a year says. A technology in particular demand amongst patients is a Tandberg-based portable wireless video conferencing unit which is wheeled around wards to enable patients to enjoy face-to-face communications with family and friends. Another key driver for the move towards wireless is the large number of visiting doctors needing to connect to the hospital’s VPN with their laptops or other portable devices.
However IT staff at the hospital were quite mindful of the security risks associated with providing wireless access.
One of Thatcher’s colleagues in the IT department Peter Nomakos says that the hospital was having to deal with visitors attempting to gain unauthorised access to the network.
“We have seen attempts all the time,” Nomakos says.
It was important therefore to build the network in such a way as to allow for plenty of segregation with each access point routed by the firewall.
Wi-fi, iPad and desktop virtualisation – holy IT of Trinity
Thank heavens there was a robust wireless network in place before the devices went marching in.
When the headmaster of Trinity Grammar came knocking at Evan Hughes’ door with an idea for a pilot of 360 Apple iPads, the school’s IT director likely breathed a sigh of relief.
Hughes had not long installed an Aruba wireless network that he says meant there was little to be done to the main Summer Hill campus network to accommodate the devices that drink up bandwidth for multimedia.
“We added a few access points in a few areas of the school but we didn’t have to modify any of the structure – just added an invisible network name – we had infrastructure and it wasn’t difficult for Accucom to work on this,” says Hughes, referring to the project’s systems integrator.
Trinity, established in 1913, now has 2000 boys and 500 staff at its
three Sydney campuses; the biggest at Summer Hill that caters to years three to six and seven to 12 has an Aruba wireless network to support 1600 devices including nearly
600 notebook PCs and 100 Apple Macs in addition to iPads. And it runs Microsoft Active Directory, Windows Server 2008, Exchange 2010 and desktop virtualisation.
Summer Hill was a patchwork of wireless networks, which restricted teaching and use of mobiles. The Aruba network was scaled to deal with saturation coverage of scores of devices – “a good decision”, Hughes says, because of the growth of devices. The decision to build
its information infrastructure on the web browser is also supported by the deployment of Microsoft Sharepoint for collaboration and the intranet, Hughes says.
Like many IT managers, Hughes has spent the past few years looking to a time when the ratio of devices to users exceeds unity and most of those will be owned and managed by their users.
Part of that change is at the core of the school’s Denbigh administration system, which the
vendor is rewriting to support the wider choice of client devices that will need access to it, Hughes says.
A school of intellectually precocious boys presents a challenge to make a chief information security officer blanche, so Hughes has restricted access to safe online sandboxes where virtual classrooms will sit.
“Aruba has some tools that can help us and we’re looking at how to integrate that into the system here to limit any frivolous registrations and track what happens. We have 1600 devices on the network and I can see that at least doubling when policy changes and users can register their own devices.”
He says for some users, the devices they choose will be determined by the day’s agenda, “and that’s where you need to provide flexibility”.
A consequence of the changes is that desktop virtualisation is on the agenda so users “can work on a standard Windows machine through their mobile device”.
Internet? Be our guest
For a Sydney hotel targeting international travellers, providing free wi-fi shows it’s as switched on as its clientele
Guests at Rydges North Sydney could not access a free internet service in commonly used areas. With more people spending more time on the web, hotel management decided to provide free wireless internet service in hotel public areas, including those serving food and beverages, to make functions such as surfing the web and checking email freely available to guests.
Hotel general manager Craig Simpson said the upgrade was driven by a desire to be seen as a destination of choice for international travellers to the tech hub of Sydney, that includes nearby businesses such as
Cisco, Vocus and broadband infrastructure builder NBN Co.
“They weren’t able to just sit in the lobby, bar or restaurant and use their laptop while waiting for dinner or waiting to meet with business partners,” Simpson said
“I was recently in the US and free wi-fi is very big over there. As one of the leading hotels, Rydges wanted to be the first hotel in North Sydney to provide wi-fi free of charge in commonly used areas
in recognition and consideration of our guests’ needs.”
“We also wanted to draw people out of their rooms and into the food and beverage spaces to drive food and beverage spend and it has been a true success,” Simpson said.
“It was our strong desire to receive a customised solution that was reasonable in price, had all the necessary features and was fast and easy to deploy.”
He said support and training was a "must-have" for the hotel. “Moreover, the solution needed to be manageable by our IT staff and technical support.”
Rydges was enticed to D-Link by the vendor's free wireless site survey prior to the build. And it had roaming and quality-of-service guarantees in the public areas. D-Link recommended a high performance firewall (DFL-210) connected to a Web Smart Switch (DES-1228P) for security. Three indoor access points (DWL-3140AP) that looked like smoke detectors were installed; they tune for optimal radio channels.
Access Points link to the Web Smart Switch for power-over-Ethernet secure client access. The DES-1228P wireless switch manages up to 24 access points and 200 clients.
Simpson likes the zero-touch wi-fi network: “You don’t have to reboot, you don’t have to touch it, you don’t even have to look at it”.
And the differentiation is a big marketing point for the hotel.
“There are plans to see this solution rolled out for all other Rydges Hotels in Australia,” he said. “The fact that guests can utilise their laptops in a space where they can receive services is great not just for us but also for the guests. All the guests like having free wi-fi and they are extremely happy with the speed and connectivity. The system worked straight away and we haven’t had any complaints.”
Please make a Ruckus, we’re studying
Students living at Murdoch University can expect the same or better wireless internet for learning and socialising than they would get at home
Heightened user expectations were at the top of Chad Daly’s mind when scoping the requirements for his employer’s wi-fi wireless access network.
As general manager of Murdoch University Village in WA, Daly caters to 800 students living on campus in the city’s south, about two-thirds of whom are used to faster, cheaper, more reliable broadband back home than what Australians typically get.
When students make a decision where to study and stay, internet access and affordability are key criteria, Daly says. Campus Living Villages, the accommodation company, competes with third- party wireless providers for students’ business.
“The quality of internet is a huge decision because it’s a basic to be able to study and there’s a massive social aspect to that as well; a need and want to be able to Skype” with friends and relatives back home, Daly says.
He chose BigAir because the accommodation provider already had relationships with the service provider, one of Australia’s largest providers of wireless services and a network carrier, and because the service was affordable and within the means of the students.
Over four weeks last summer, BigAir rolled out 123 Ruckus ZoneFlex 7343 802.11n access points to 170 residential units and much of the village’s three hectare site including common areas such as the lounge and outside pool.
After a settling in period of a few months when speeds were about two to three megabits a second, each user now gets speeds of 15 to 25 megabits a second without contention, says BigAir general manager Jean Morel.
A key selling point for Ruckus is the phased array of seven internal antennas in each access point that locks on to a device and follows it as it moves around. Users log on once and as they move between access points, their internet follows them without the need to re-authenticate.
For BigAir and the end user, manageability was paramount, Morel says. “Our head office was in Sydney, so it was critical the solution was rock solid and could be remotely managed,” he says.
The Ruckus ZoneDirector 3150 wireless LAN controller is the
brains behind the network, providing security, location management, load balancing and airtime fairness to allow, for instance, uninterrupted voice calls. And with Ruckus’ SmartMesh networking, Ethernet cables don’t have to be laid to each access point, speeding deployment, the vendor says.
The first step was a predictive or simulated survey with Ruckus Zoneplanner. Then an operator walked the site with a trolley that held a Ruckus access point and a radio mast, taking readings.
Installing the wi-fi access points that look much like light fittings took four days, followed by another audit to tweak the settings. The process took about four weeks from commissioning to completion, says Murdoch Village’s Daly.
It’s a sign of its success that in two years the broadband pipe into the site has doubled to a symmetrical 80 megabits a second, most of it used for social applications.
The future of hyperfast wireless broadband
DIDO promises to be a hit with users of the wireless, writes Boyd Murray
A high-speed, fixed-wireless technology recently field-tested by the CSIRO has caught the public's imagination because it has significant datarate and range advantages over competing 4G technologies preferred by NBN Co.
Distributed input, distributed output (DIDO) wireless offers 12 to 100 megabits a second to users within 60 kilometres of a tower but to understand its development and why the CSIRO's world-leading trials are so important, a brief history lesson is in order.
When Guglielmo Marconi ushered in the modern age of wireless telecommunications with his 1901 transatlantic wireless-telegraph demonstration, he achieved it using a SISO (single input, single output) system. The next advancement
was having two (or more) receiver antennas and selecting or combining the antenna outputs to improve the reception. This is now called a SIMO (single input, multiple output) system and is still widely used today.
In the 1990s and 2000s, researchers were working on MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) with transmitters and receivers on
both ends. Mathematician Claude Shannon postulated that the datarate of a single wireless link was proportional to
the amount of frequency spectrum used. But MIMO had many links between each transmitter and receiver, allowing much higher datarates in the same frequency spectrum.
But what happens when many users want to access the same wireless channel – for example, on a wi-fi network? A way is to share by using the same frequency-spectrum slot at different times – time division, multiple access (TDMA).
users) of 292 Mbps and uplink datarate of 71 Mbps. This is an average bandwidth efficiency of 9Mbps a MegaHertz (only half of even the prototype CSIRO MU- MIMO system). LTE is for mobile systems and has broad, unfocused, 120-degree sector beams to serve a five to 10 kilometre radius from the base station.
CSIRO estimated that in sparsely populated regions 20 LTE base stations would be required to service the same area served by one of its MU-MIMO base stations. All is not lost however, as it is expected that, at some time, LTE will be upgraded to include MU-MIMO.
In an August address at Macquarie University, NBN Co’s design and planning manager Peter Ferris was asked how experimental technologies such as DIDO or MU-MIMO fitted in to its thinking. Ferris said NBN Co was risk-averse (it was on a tight schedule) and would only choose standards-based technologies from recognised companies. This defines how Australia views home-grown wireless technologies.
How then can CSIRO’s wireless technologies find their way into the market without local support? Perhaps the answer comes from looking at the two most significant Australian wireless technologies success stories of the last decade – Radiata and CSIRO.
After significant research and development in the early ‘90s, CSIRO patented its OFDM WLAN technology in 1995. It was licensed by startup company Radiata, then first to develop a CMOS chipset for what was to become wi-fi. Radiata led for a time the IEEE 802.11 standard taskgroup that wrote wi-fi standards adopted by hundreds of makers worldwide. Cisco bought Radiata in 2000 for $US295 million. Two years ago, CSIRO licensed its WLAN patents to wi-fi makers for an undisclosed amount thought to be several hundred million dollars.