By Galen Gruman, editorial director, IT Wireless
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Niagara Falls Bridges Choose Wireless Backbone
Wireless is more than a network technology for end users. It can also replace high-speed connections between facilities, replacing T1 and other such dedicated data lines. In some situations, it's the only option for connecting facilities because the cost of running wires in rural, inhospitable, or densely built areas is too prohibitive. A good example is the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, a joint U.S.-Canada government agency that manages three bridges that span the Niagara River between Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ont. The bridges are several miles apart.
For years, the bridge commission has relied on the public phone network to link its bridge towers to each other and to a control center in Niagara Falls, N.Y. But increasing PBX traffic strained this network, and the cost of renting a dedicated line from the phone companies was too prohibitive, says Michael O'Reilly, head of MIS for the commission. The issue became urgent two years ago when the bridge commission decided implement video surveillance over real-time data feeds. That application requires 40Mbps of full-duplex bandwidth for both remotely controlling the cameras and transmitting the images in real time. The public phone network can't handle that kind of bandwidth need, and leasing high-speed data lines was too expensive, O'Reilly says. Furthermore, the cost of installing its own dedicated lines among the bridge offices was also much too expensive, since on the U.S. side they are surrounded by a densely built-up urban area where acquiring rights of way and then paying for installation could run millions of dollars and on the Canadian side is a waterfront provincial park.
So the bridge commission decided to use directional wireless links that can handle 100Bmps of traffic among the U.S. offices on the bridges and the administrative office. On each bridge, the Canadian office is linked to the U.S. office on the other side using a wired link on the bridge itself and then through the wireless links to the other offices. The system has been in operation for about 10 months. The commission uses standard Ethernet networks and backbones within its facilities, which see the wireless links as just another line. "A lot of people are using wireless as an addition [to their networks], but it's a part of our actual backbone," O'Reilly says.
O'Reilly says the system delivers 100Mbps of available bandwidth for data and voice, and it has additional bandwidth for forward error correction and in-band management. The bridge commission selected DragonWave Systems for its wireless link technology and Transwave for the systems integration after considering other vendors. O'Reilly notes that many companies have expertise in either IP or radio technology, but not both, so finding a suitable wireless vendor was tough. In fact, the bridge commission had tried another company's system and had to throw it out. The commission also had to toss $80,000 of Cisco routing equipment because it did not support wireless IP well enough, something the commission did not realize in its earlier use of 802.11 technology within its offices because the flaw showed up only in a backbone environment.
O'Reilly shrugs off the cost, though, since the alternative — paying millions to install dedicated wired lines — simply wasn't an option. The high-speed wireless link system cost about $20,000 per link, excluding the towers that the commission had to construct for the directional antennas. O'Reilly says that the total cost of the wireless system is less than it would cost to rent a fiber-optic line from a telephone company for just two years.
The next step may be to bring in standard 802.11 access points to the bridge plaza areas, to connect bridge employees more easily to the commission's information systems. But first, he's working with his engineering team on the video surveillance system. While the wireless backbone delivers the needed high-speed connection, O'Reilly has found that video delivery over IP, regardless of the transport medium, requires more maturation.
Got deployment experience and lessons to share? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIRELESS PRODUCT AND SERVICE GUIDE!
A subscriber exclusive! IT Wireless's Essential Products Guide is now available to subscribers. The 17-page PDF file contains a listing of key vendors and service providers, with summaries of their offerings and contact information. Categories include wireless network and client hardware, network and client software, and IT services. Download the NEW SPRING 2003 directory now!
WIRELESS PRODUCT AND SERVICE GUIDE!
As wireless technology gains acceptance in the enterprise, more and more security offerings have come on the market:
In other enterprise wireless product developments:
Got a great product or technology tip? Send it to email@example.com.
Evans Data's newest Wireless Development Survey of wireless-focused developers has found that Bluetooth network security mechanisms in use are evenly divided among Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.0 at 19%, 17%, and 16%, respectively. The 802.11 network security mechanisms in use are SSL at 21%, PKI at 16%, and user authentication/passwords at 15%. The greatest increase from six months ago for Bluetooth was PKI and for 802.11 it was user authentication/passwords, both of which expanded their user base by 36%. Other findings from the March survey of nearly 500 developers focused on the wireless development market include:
A French-American consortium that includes Cisco Systems is testing 802.11b deployments in a dozen Paris subway stations, with an eye to rolling out access points to every station at a cost of $10 million if user uptake is favorable. That would make it the largest Wi-Fi "cloud" in the world. Users would sign up for service from one of several carriers at yet-to-be-determined fees (access is free through June 30). But Wi-Fi access will not be available on the trains themselves.
Some industry developments to keep an eye on:
From IT Wireless
As an IT professional, you know that wireless technologies such as 802.11 promise to provide significant benefits to your organization. Before you go full steam ahead, you need answers to your critical concerns about wireless LANs. Questions concerning security, compatibility and best practices, to name just a few. The IT Wireless Insider email newsletter is now here to help you figure it all out. And coming later this year, IT Wireless magazine!
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