Ekurhuleni East College (ECC) for Further Education & Training is set to save as much as R500 000.00 per year by implementing a wireless network across five campuses – and will provide a better learning experience to boot.
Point-to-point wireless Ethernet bridges from the Enterprise Mobility Solutions Business of Motorola are providing the communication infrastructure for an e-skills initiative launched by the Department of Communications.
The wireless broadband network connects the five campuses of the ECC in order to centralise operations and share resources to address the shortage of specialised lecturers.
Faced with expensive, low-capacity and unreliable leased line offerings, ECC chose Motorola’s PTP400 Series wireless broadband solution due to its ability to deliver high-quality, long-range communication at a fraction of the cost of alternative technologies. This has enabled a network to be deployed between the main campus of the college and its four satellite campuses – 4km to 20km away – with less impact on the allocated budget, allowing funds to be spent on additional facilities.
Implemented by local partner Comsol, the network supports high-throughput data, voice and video applications for EEC, a tertiary institution which was founded by merging five former training institutions, each with its own campus. ECC is focused on serving underprivileged communities in Gauteng province.
The network, consisting of point-to-point links, enables the campuses to transfer bandwidth-intensive information at high speed and low latency ,can be used to address the lack of skilled lecturers at some campuses through video-conferencing, using electronic whiteboards. This creates virtual classrooms in which the lecturer and students at remote campuses can interact as though it is one physical classroom.
All analogue telephones have been replaced with VoIP phones that allow the campuses to communicate with each other without having to pay for each call and to route external calls through a service provider link provided only at the main campus. This has resulted in cost savings of up to R500 000.00 per year.
Video cameras for security will also be employed on the network.
"The ability to connect and communicate with each other is vital to the success of an organisation such as EEC. With the legacy systems, inter-campus communication could be completely cut off if a site went down. This made it extremely difficult to co-ordinate activities and maintain productivity," explains Dr Johan Groenewald, project manager: recapitalisation at EEC.
Henrik Asbjørn, vice-president: channel growth operations at Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Solutions, EMEA notes that the point-to-point system is designed for quick and easy installation. "Operating in a licence-exempt frequency band, it achieves more reliable and faster data rates than comparable wireless solutions, maintaining up to 99.999% availability," he says.
"The ECC network was a vast project that included building an entirely new high-speed network which could support Voice over IP and video- conferencing as well as standard internet services such as e-mail and data transfer over a single broadband connection," adds Yvonne Burness, project manager at Comsol.
The Department of Communications has also identified five schools in the Ekurhuleni municipality that will connect to EEC’s network via point-to-point wireless systems.
The pilot is part of the department’s initiative to address South Africa’s ICT skills shortage through an e-skills programme that will extend broadband connectivity to schools, clinics and community centres.
"By connecting to the existing network, we will create an e-learning platform that provides these schools with access to science and maths teachers at EEC, thus addressing the lack of resources we face in the education sector," says Dennis Memela, chief director responsible for the ICT Skills Development Programme.
Future plans include the deployment of a meshed network that can support mobile broadband services, connecting local communities and driving the transformation to a digital society.