UAE University rolls out wireless to student dormitories

The university opted for Free Space Optics from LightPointe to provide the passive network layer, with Cisco’s Aironet wireless, Catalyst switches and Long Reach Ethernet solutions deployed to deliver wireless access to its nine campuses.

  • E-Mail
By  Zoe Moleshead Published  May 25, 2003

Investment decisions|~||~||~|UAE University wanted to extend wireless access to its dormitories. However, to do so would have meant a complex and costly infrastructure deployment, which would have involved laying fibre cables and installing ATM switches, wireless switches and access points throughout its nine campuses.

Consequently, the university’s staff decided to investigate alternative solutions and instead opted for Free Space Optics from LightPointe to provide the passive network layer, with Cisco’s Aironet wireless, Catalyst switches and Long Reach Ethernet solutions deployed to deliver wireless access to the campuses.

“It is a complete solution — there is a wired part and a wireless part. There is a wireless part with the Cisco Wireless Aironet 350 series Access Points — this is for indoor — and for the outdoor we have wide area network (WAN) connectivity using the Cisco Aironet 350 Wireless Bridge. For the wired backbone, we have Cisco’s 2900 series switches and also the Long Reach Ethernet Catalyst 2950 switches,” says Ahmed Yasser Jamal, network administrator, dorms & wireless, UAE University.

“And of course, there’s LightPointe Free Space Optics, which we are using for WAN connectivity,” he adds.

By deploying these solutions, the university has become a pioneering technology site within the Middle East. It is one of the first sites to implement Long Reach Ethernet and Free Space Optics, which basically involves the transmission of data streams through the air as opposed to fibre cables, and is also one of the largest wireless sites in the region with 250 access points positioned around its nine dormitory campuses. However, more important to the university, is the superior bandwidth capabilities that the solution is providing.

“We need to connect the students to the internet and to do that we would have had to get leased lines or ATM connections from Etisalat, I calculated it would cost Dhs1 million (US$272,300) every year to get the right performance — not just 1 or 2 Mbit/s. We are running this for 10,000 students so we need more [bandwidth,]” explains Jamal.

“Now most of the campuses — depending on their distance and size — are running between 10 and 100 Mbits/s connections using Free Space. For the main sites we are using 1 Gbit/s connections, which is perfect for us,” he continues.

While LightPointe’s solution delivered bandwidth improvements for the WAN connectivity, Cisco’s Long Reach Ethernet solutions enhance bandwidth to the wireless switches and access points without distance dissipation and in a more simplistic manner than traditional solutions by utilising telephone lines.

“With ADSL the maximum you can get is 2.3 Mbits/s, so it is a bottleneck. Cisco’s Long Reach Ethernet is giving 15 Mbit/s speed up to 1.5 km, which is great. Long Reach Ethernet is over VDSL (Very High Data Rate Digital Subscriber Line) and it allows us to connect the access point direct from ‘X’ location to the switch… So it is access point, phone line, switch, not access point, UTP cable, switch, fibre then backbone switch, which is more cost and more work,” Jamal explains.

To further enhance internet speeds and provide caching and filtering capabilities, the university has also deployed five content engines from Cisco. “We have the Cisco CE 590 content engine and we have four 507 series engines. They are providing us with higher speeds of accessibility to the internet and caching whatever is not needed,” Jamal explains.

||**||Cost savings|~||~||~|Although Jamal admits that the innovative technology added to the complexity of the implementation, strong support from LightPointe, Cisco and project partner, Emirates Computers, ensured that the entire solution was deployed in just two months.

Furthermore, the cost and management savings for the university are substantial. There are three network administrators overseeing the management of the network, however, the LightPointe solution has proved trouble free in its first five months of operation and should require very little management in future.

“The great thing about LightPointe is that it is a physical layer, so you just install, connect and forget. It is like fibre cable, once you have installed it, you don’t think about it after that,” comments Jamal.

“We have also installed CiscoWorks for both wired and wireless modules. It is a very good product to install and use, you can view and change whatever you want,” he continues.

The investment savings made are also significant. Although the complete solution cost Dhs2.15 million (US$585,000) with Dhs880,000 (US$239,620) of that for the LightPointe solution, this is in comparison to the Dhs6-7 million (US$1.63-1.9 m) it would have cost to deploy a more traditional solution. Furthermore, the investment will be spread over a 10-year period.

“If we went for a normal solution, it was about Dhs6-7 million [because] you need civil work, ATM switches, backbone switches, edge switches plus access points and so on. So we saved on the cost of ATM, core switches and the WAN connectivity,” says Jamal.

Moving forward, UAE University is planning to extend its wireless capabilities and deliver IP telephony to students, with a pilot proejct already underway.

“Our students have laptops and we are going to provide soft phone software to put on them… We are [already] starting to distribute the software. It is a pilot, it is not a deployment, so we are going to choose 600-700 students who have laptops and accessibility through wireless and we will check how it [the pilot] goes,” explains Jamal.

Cisco’s Call Management software will be used in the initial pilot and although Jamal says this is no guarantee that Cisco’s solution will be used for the full deployment, he admits that there are benefits to implementing just one vendor’s products.

“We have Cisco Call Management for the pilot, but we have to be fair. Maybe we will go with Cisco finally because the product is supporting voice over IP (VoIP) switches, access points and supporting VoIP Long Reach Ethernet switches. So it is beneficial to be Cisco all the way,” Jamal says.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code