Cables cut for conference

Backhaul challenges test Nextech in its wireless implementation for the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) conference in Bahrain.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  December 22, 2004

|~|mike-campbell_m.jpg|~|“The main challenge was the wireless backhaul. On the bottom floor, we had eight access points (APs), with only three connected to the wired Ethernet network. The other five were centring back using wireless backhaul or basically a meshing technology.” - Mike Campbell, general manager, Nextech|~|The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) used solutions provider Nextech to set up a wireless network for its recent regional conference in Bahrain. The conference lasted three days and featured 1200 delegates from countries including Yemen, Iran, Kuwait, KSA, Bahrain, UAE, Pakistan and Lebanon. “The theme of the conference was advancing technology to the GCC so it was fitting that we were wireless enabled,” says Muhammad Al Dhamen, senior manager, Saudi Aramco and senior Gulf IEEE representative. “It shows people that the technology is here now, that it works, and that it can be touched, tried and tested,” he adds. “We were briefed by the IEEE to come up with a 802.11 compliant network,” says Mike Campbell, general manager, Nextech. “We had to cover the Gulf hotel, which included a large conference centre, an exhibition area, break-off sessions and a reception area across three floors,” he adds. Nextech saturated the area with Proxim wireless access points (AP 2000s and AP 4000s), using 23 in all, with central control provided by WaveLink mobile manager. The company also provided 150 wireless PC cards on loan to delegates with notebooks that lacked wireless capability. “The main challenge was the wireless backhaul,” says Campbell. “On the bottom floor, we had eight access points (APs), with only three connected to the wired Ethernet network. The other five were centring back using wireless backhaul or basically a meshing technology,” he adds. The alternative to using meshing techniques would have been to run cables to each AP, which would add to the cost of the implementation and reduce its flexibility. “The hardest thing about the wireless implementation is the site acquisition. The cost of APs is not as significant in installation terms as finding a location with power and Ethernet connectivity. So, if you are able to use mesh and Power over Ethernet (PoE) it gives you flexibility in where you choose to put the APs. Also if we were having trouble getting around a corner, we didn’t have to worry about power and Ethernet access,” says Campbell. In terms of granting access to the wireless network, Nextech set up a compartmentalised solution. As the conference was attended only by invited delegates, the company allowed people to create their own password to access e–mail and internet services. Nextech also set up stronger AP security settings for the conference room that was used exclusively by the IEEE organisers. Additional password authentication requirements were also included as the users had access to sensitive information such as registration data. Nextech used WaveLink’s Linux-based management application, which allowed them to administer the network, as well as carry out a survey of the area before implementation. This allowed Nextech to assess how many access points were needed to efficiently cover the area. WaveLink can manage any AP vendor’s products and has some security management features, such as the ability to do alarm tracing. “Our main problem came from policing wide area network (WAN) bandwidth,” says Campbell. “We’d find a couple of attendees were using most of the bandwidth and slowing the other guys down. We were able to set up quality of service on the Batelco provided WAN to counter this,” he adds. The connection used was 512Kybtes/s on the first day and this was upgraded to 2Mbyte/s for the last two days due to greater than anticipated demand. In 2005, the IEEE conference will be held again in Bahrain and for next year the IEEE plans to make the conference less academic and more practical in focus. “We plan to touch the need in the GCC more strongly,” says Al Dhamen. “There will be less emphasis on academic subject matters and more focus on practical issues and addressing specific needs in the region,” he adds.||**||

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