ASEZA installs wireless solution for WAN users

For the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) in Jordan, providing wide area network (WAN) connectivity throughout the zone could have been a time consuming, costly and disruptive process. ASEZA, however, avoided many of these headaches by deploying a wireless solution that combines Cisco wireless bridges and LightPointe’s Flight Spectrum platform.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  July 31, 2003

Wireless WAN|~||~||~|For the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) in Jordan, providing wide area network (WAN) connectivity throughout the zone could have been a time consuming, costly and disruptive process. ASEZA, however, avoided many of these headaches by deploying a wireless solution that combines Cisco wireless bridges and LightPointe’s Flight Spectrum platform.

“There are several reasons [why we opted for wireless,] one of the reasons was an overall reduction in the total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to conventional leased line connectivity through the local telco operator’s infrastructure. Another reason was the faster time to deploy and implement such a network,” explains Omar Qawas, MIS (management, information, systems) director, ASEZA.

“Also, we have ownership of the physical layer of the network as opposed to having to rely on a third party, such as the local telco operator. We own and maintain it [the WAN] and therefore no points of failure are possible,” he continues.

Furthermore, the wireless WAN, which was designed and implemented by NCR, offers higher bandwidth availability than traditional leased line connectivity. LightPointe’s Flight Spectrum Laser system provides a backbone of up to 155 Mbits/s, while Cisco’s Aironet 350 wireless bridges deliver connectivity speeds of up to 11 Mbits/s.

“The leased line infrastructure provided by the telco is too low for our applications,” says Qawas. “The minimum bandwidth that we have using this [wireless] technology is already 20 times the current maximum that the telco provides,” he adds.

The WAN has enabled ASEZA to link eight remote sites, including the two ASEZA headquarters, Wadi Araba Customs, King Hussein International Airport, Aqaba City Services Centre, Aqaba Harbour Customs, Aqaba Income Tax department and the South Border Crossing Point. More importantly, the network provides these sites with access to applications and other services that were previously unavailable.

“We have several remote sites that rely heavily on computer applications and the retrieval of data, this is now facilitated through the use of the network. So the obvious benefit is the ability to access business systems and data in the remote sites from which it was previously impossible or impractical to do so in terms of both bandwidth and connectivity,” explains Qawas.

Currently, the network is providing access to internet, e-mail and file sharing facilities, as well as to department specific business applications. “At this stage… we are running all the basic network services, which incorporate file sharing and centralised file storage and backup for the different remote sites. We also provide internet and e-mail services to ASEZA employees internally,” notes Qawas.

“There are a set of other applications that are facilitated by virtue of this connectivity and they are applications for customs (ASYCUDA); revenue & sales tax control and income tax revenue, as well as an application for food and health inspection control,” he continues.

ASEZA, however, also plans to provide videoconferencing and video surveillance of certain sites in the zone, including the airport, cargo inspection area, inventory/stock area and the car pool. As such, the additional bandwidth provided by the wireless solution is essential for deliveriing these services.

“We are also planning to deploy IP cameras over this network and use the installation bases of the different wireless network nodes to show images of Aqaba from various locations. We will then pipe [these images] through our web site,” adds Qawas.

||**||Future plans|~||~||~|While bandwidth flexibility and scalability was a key concern for ASEZA, security was also paramount in the design and installation of the wireless solution. As such, the zone has undertaken a number of measures to ensure the integrity of data and traffic traversing the WAN.

All traffic is encrypted from sender to receiver and back again, while Qawas says that plans are underway to implement strong encryption mechanisms on the Cisco 3662 core routers and 2621XM edge routers, which were also deployed as part of the wireless solution.

“Cisco WEB Wireless LAN (local area network) encryption is being used to secure the wireless links and ASEZA is planning to implement 3DES encryption on all routes for more security in the next phase of the project,” says Ayman Hamed, senior networking engineer, NCR.

LightPointe’s solution also adds weight to the security of the wireless network.
“Because we use laser and not radio frequency, they [ASEZA] felt very comfortable with the solution and felt that there was no way it could be intercepted by a transmitter,” comments Malek Akilie, regional manager, LightPointe Middle East & Africa.

Although the implementation process was carried out without any technical problems, red tape surrounding approval from Jordan’s Telecoms Regulatory Committee (TRC) for the wireless equipment delayed the rollout.

“There were no major problems during the implementation, the only snag if you will was the red tape involved in getting the licensing for the equipment that we were deploying in the solution,” confirms Qawas. “In reality, applying this solution would take under a month… but the process overall took four months to complete,” he adds.

The project was finally completed in April this year and Qawas reports that the network has been running smoothly since. Managing the WAN has also proved straightforward for ASEZA’s IT team, which consists of a network engineer, helpdesk support employee and an enterprises level network manager. “Between them the network management is done internally,” notes Qawas.

“We are using CiscoWorks, which is inherent to the Cisco tools and technology provided, and at this stage it is fine for all of our needs and requirements,” he adds.

Moving forward, Qawas says the wireless solution will provide the scalability and flexibility it requires to meet the evolving technology requirements of the economic zone and its users. Aside from the rollout of video services in Q4 this year, ASEZA is also planning further wireless implementations to extend coverage and connectivity.

“Wireless… really allows us to expand our network and services in a very fast and cost effective manner,” states Qawas.

“So plans for expansion will involve wireless hotspots where we create coverage areas that incorporate several buildings or large groups of people,” he adds.||**||

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