ExpoCentreSharjah deploys wireless network

The ExpoCentre in Sharjah has installed a wireless local area network (WLAN) throughout its 128,000 square metre complex to compliment its voice over IP (VoIP), enhance its lead retrieval solutions and facilitate the delivery of value added services to exhibitors and visitors.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  September 29, 2003

Wireless hotspot|~||~||~|The ExpoCentre in Sharjah has installed a wireless local area network (WLAN) throughout its 128,000 square metre complex to compliment its voice over IP (VoIP), enhance its lead retrieval solutions and facilitate the delivery of value added services to exhibitors and visitors.

The network, which was deployed in just 30 days, allows users to access both voice and data services free of charge. The solution also provides device and user flexibility. For example, exhibitors or visitors with laptops or PDAs can access the internet, while the centre’s NetVision Phones and NetVision Data Phones can operate on both the WLAN and traditional analogue lines.

“ExpoCentreSharjah is covered by 100 access points, which are both inside the buildings and outside. The WLAN is all built with Symbol technology and operates at 2.4 GHz and speeds of 11 Mbit/s. Whoever has a laptop or a PDA… can access the network directly to browse the internet or their e-mail,” says Khoder Hawilo, IT Manager, ExpoCentreSharjah.

“The centre also has VoIP and the [IP] phones work on the wireless LAN. When users are working within the wireless area there is seamless coverage and when they go outside they go over [the] Etisalat [network],” explains S. Feroz Mehdi, product manager with the ExpoCentre’s project partner, Bond Communications.

With such a vast area to cover and a large number of access ports, the centre’s IT department opted for Symbol Technologies’ Mobius Axon Wireless System. The solution enables ‘thin’ access points to be controlled centrally through a switch, which saves both time and energy in terms of management. Furthermore, by removing the features from the access points themselves, they become less bulky and expensive, while the central switch affords greater features and functionalities to users.

“The technology is state of the art,” claims Mehdi. “It is based on switching technology, rather than the standard access points. There is no individual management of access points, you have a [central] switch which manages all the access ports,” he adds.

Additionally, the Mobius switch comes packed with security features, which has further eased the burden for the centre’s IT staff. “We’ve got multiple security solutions with the Mobius system. We have the emerging standard, 802.11i and Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). We have also built in an authentication scheme, 802.1x, which is becoming the standard for wireless security framework and ETLS, which is Transfer Line Security and similar to what is used by web browsers,” says Ray Martino, general manager & vice president, network products, Symbol Technologies.

This also simplifies the access process for users and, as such, it is simply plug & play. “We are not providing any passwords to users. Visitors or exhibitors can just access the network directly,” confirms Hawilo.

While PDA or laptop users obviously need the necessary wireless cards, ExpoCentreSharjah is providing PCMCIA cards to those visitors that do not have these capabilities already installed in their devices.

“Anybody carrying a device that has got a wireless card built in is automatically connected to the network when they switch on their device. But if they have a device that doesn’t have a card we can give them one for a nominal price,” says Fasahat Ali Khan, deputy director general, ExpoCentreSharjah.

For the ExpoCentre, the WLAN is part of a broader initiative to facilitate the activities of exhibitors and visitors by providing them with greater and easier access to information. As such, some of the VoIP phones also double as barcode readers for exhibitors, which enables them to record visitor information by scanning their badges.

“What we are trying to do at ExpoCentreSharjah is make it a lot easier for customers to come in and do business [immediately] and that is where the technology is playing a key role. The important thing is to get exhibitors and visitors closer together and this is what we hope to do with the value added services,” says Hawilo.||**||

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