Seamless mobility

Qatar sports academy Aspire has successfully implemented a voice over Wi-Fi solution as part of its overall network deployment.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  April 30, 2005

|~|soubhi-aspire2_m.jpg|~|At Aspire, the network plays an integral part in the development of the athletes. The technology is used to extend computer related performance analysis to the field where the athletes will be training and competing. The college also uses 3D modelling to assess the performance of athletes, with the information available in the field.|~|Innovative educator Aspire has added voice over Wi-Fi to its futuristic network implementation. The school for aspiring young sportsmen, which aims to produce international class footballers and Olympic standard athletes, opened in September 2004 with its operations built on an infrastructure provided by 3Com. The school then test piloted an Avaya IP telephony solution over the Wi-Fi network for a number of weeks before launching it in earnest. The Avaya technology used in the implementation was supplied by Future Technology and comprised a S8700 media server, G650 media gateway, a multimedia messaging platform gateway, 4601, 4610, 4620 and 4630SW model IP phones, 3616 wireless IP phones and Softphone for Pocket PC. The Avaya voice technology sits on top of 3Com network infrastructure, which is built around the vendor’s XRN architecture. The million dollar deployment comprises a 10Gigabit enabled core featuring two 3Com Switch 7700R models, a Gigabit to the desktop switching architecture using pairs of 3Com SuperStack 3 Switch 4070s, as well as power over Ethernet (PoE) for the wireless LAN infrastructure. At Aspire, the network plays an integral part in the development of the athletes. The technology is used to extend computer related performance analysis to the field where the athletes train and compete. The college also uses 3D modelling to assess the performance of athletes, with this information available anywhere on the campus. “Aspire has a unique IT department in that we invest lots of research and development in sport,” says Soubhi Abdulkarim, IT manager at the Aspire sports academy. “We have an athletes database that is connected to most of the training and medical equipment at Aspire. It is also connected to the restaurants so we can track the food intake of the students. The database is available to coaches and psychologists who can access the data when it matters, on the field,” he explains. The IP telephony part of the solution is seen as key by Aspire and Abdulkarim has identified a number of key advantages the system has brought, including unified messaging, with employees able to receive voice mail directly to their e-mail inbox. Aspire has also been able to assign a fax number to each member of staff and has added the ability to send and receive faxes from Microsoft Outlook. The IT manager also praised the mobility of the system, particularly through the Extension to Cellular feature of Avaya Communication Manager. This technology bridges calls received by an Avaya communications server to any mobile phone regardless of location or wireless service provider. “The nature of our business requires many employees to be in the labs or on the field rather than behind their desks. Wireless voice over internet protocol (VoIP) enables all Aspire employees to be anywhere in the campus without missing a single call and routes incoming calls to your mobile when you are not in the office,” says Abdulkarim. A further benefit of the system which was highlighted by the Aspire team, is ease of management, as the telephony can be managed remotely from anywhere within the campus or from outside. Aspire also says the system is user friendly and fast and that adding, moving and deleting extensions, as well as managing dialing privileges takes no more then five minutes of the system administrator’s time. “We have a resource assigned to manage the system and requests usually come to the system administrator after following a certain approval process. Then the administrator performs the required task with a short period of time,” says Abdulkarim. On the security side, the same infrastructure that secures the data network also protects the telephony. On top of that, the Avaya solution has built-in security features such as encryption of all conversations internally and externally to avoid eavesdropping. Additionally, Aspire plans to add security measures to avoid administrative errors, automatically report system problems and eliminate abuse of the system by users. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, with the implementation undergoing some hiccups in the pilot stage. That said, Abdulkarim has been surprised at the ease of integration given that cutting edge solutions from different vendors were deployed. “We were expecting a lot more problems than what we had. As a matter of fact, the two systems work well together aside from typical network issues that usually get resolved immediately,” says Abdulkarim. Aspire was warned to expect call quality issues with voice over Wi-Fi, with latency and call drops. Aspire has avoided problems on latency but has an issue with dropped calls in certain areas in the campus. The dropped calls were due to weak coverage in one area of the building and Aspire plans to add access points to boost the signal there. “I was expecting dropped calls when roaming from one access point to another but was surprised to find out that it roams well without dropping calls. Performance will even get better when we move to the new wireless switch from 3Com in the next three months,” says Abdulkarim. Aspire has not yet had time to roll out many applications for its network although it has a slew of applications in development including remote login from outside Aspire through a VPN connection, which will virtually transfer an employee’s phone to anywhere in the world. The college also has text to speech and voice recognition applications, which will allow users to check e-mail by dialing into the system, in the development pipeline. The applications will read mail to users over the phone with the user able to drive the system though voice commands. Overall, Aspire is delighted with the implementation and Abdulkarim is enthusiastically waving the flag not just for the college’s network but for the technology in general. “The value proposition of the technology is great, and the adoption rate should be high in my opinion. We have provided our management team with i-mate PDAs with built-in Wi-Fi. We now use these devices as soft phones in conjunction with the Avaya solution when inside the campus and in areas that are not covered by our wireless network, we use them as mobile phones on the cellular network,” he says.||**||

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