Monday, April 16, 2007

Singapore's Muni Wi-Fi Network Exceeds 1,000 Mesh Nodes

The first phase of Wireless@SG, the Wi-Fi deployment blanketing Singapore, currently exceeds 1,000 indoor and outdoor mesh nodes and access points. Firetide is supplying equipment for the municipal, wireless mesh network, which is being deployed by iCELL, a local IT solution provider, and D-Synergy, a local distributor.

The network, which began deployment in November 2006, was cultivated by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore as part of its Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure initiative, dubbed Wireless@SG. Three local wireless operators are currently deploying a free wireless broadband network with access speeds of up to 512kbps that is planned to be available in most public areas.

Singapore has a challenging wireless environment with hills, narrow streets, alleys and high rise office towers blocking line-of-sight. Due to the tropical climate, most end-users prefer to receive Wi-Fi indoors, adding the challenge of penetrating building walls. In addition to handling the geographical terrain, iCELL installed advanced technical features that included Firetide's mesh for triple-play applications -- adding data traffic, voice, video and future mobile capabilities.

iCELL is providing the following key lessons learned so far for municipalities considering similar deployments:

  • Select a Model That Works for Your Community -- Singapore instituted for a government sponsored initiative Wireless@SG to ensure Wi-Fi access would be available to all its citizens. To cover the entire country of Singapore, multiple operators were utilized for regional zones to make the deployment more manageable.

  • Consider Future Applications -- The government decided that it would include Wi-Fi access throughout all regions. It also called for future applications for voice and mobility so that wireless connectivity could be tapped while on the go. Firetide's mesh network offers both VLAN capability, QoS and multiple levels of encryption for network security. This allows Singapore to offer secure services to its users and to prioritize critical voice traffic ahead of data for optimal VoIP performance.

  • Test and Correct Installation at Every Step -- During the deployment, the service provider learned that the best location for an access point was not necessarily the best location for a wireless mesh node. Firetide's modular architecture allowed for the ability to deploy each function with flexibility. Based on "test and correct method," iCELL and Firetide engineers learned that placing wireless nodes up high, for best backhaul performance and place access points closer to the user communities allowed for the best network coverage. As Firetide's hardware could be de-coupled, it allowed additional ways to work with any environment.

  • Set Clear Expectations About Coverage -- The free Wi-Fi service is slated to be available island-wide in major indoors and outdoors public places, but not in residential areas, where broadband connections are readily available. Setting expectations upfront, and planning for reliable performance in indoor public venues (cafes, malls, government buildings) prevented issues commonly seen in some of the U.S. Wi-Fi deployments. From the technical stand- point, Firetide's products allow seamless network management from indoors to the outdoors.