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Lasernet wireless connectivity system used by emergency services in South African blaze

Lasernet wireless connectivity system used by emergency services in South African blaze

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Even in the intense heat of a major fire in South Africa a high-capacity wireless connectivity system from InfiNet remained unaffected. In fact, despite the runaway blaze in Knysa the equipment, utilised by customer Lasernet, proved to be so resilient that it was used by emergency organisations when all else had failed.

Lasernet was established in 2003 with the vision of providing the media industry with high-speed connectivity. The company’s aim is to facilitate large-scale data transfers between media agents and broadcasters.

At the time the company was set up, the only cost-effective options available on the market were very limited with many lines being very expensive to install. This meant only large companies could justify the expense.

There was a gap in the market for providing reliable and high capacity connectivity at an affordable price. Lasernet set about creating an entirely wireless-based infrastructure in three South African major Central Business Districts (CBDs): Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Over the following years, Lasernet deployed a nationwide platform consisting of a combination of free space optics links from fSONA of Canada and additional radio equipment. While the lasers operated at 100Mbps – a staggering speed at that time – they were susceptible to adverse weather conditions such as fog and required continuous back-up from a radio unit delivering a limited 20Mbps.

As the project moved on and technology improved, Lasernet was able to find an alternative source of reliable wireless solutions and gradually replaced the infrastructure with alternative radio technologies. The company’s management was later introduced to the InfiNet Wireless range of products. After a few weeks of successful testing in the field, they made the strategic decision to standardise their core infrastructure on InfiNet’s solutions.

Since then, Lasernet has been operating its entire video delivery platform exclusively on InfiNet Wireless equipment.

In 2014, Lasernet was awarded a sought-after project to lay a new fibre infrastructure for the entire municipal district of Knysna, South Africa. Running concurrently with the fibre roll-out project, Lasernet was able to further extend their wireless infrastructure using InfiNet Wireless’s solutions to provide coverage into Knysna.

This meant that for an area that had been limited to ADSL connectivity only for many years, the promise of fast, reliable and affordable wireless connectivity was eagerly welcomed – the planning and actual installation moved forward very quickly with the support and open arms of the local community.

Lasernet’s coverage currently spans backhaul links ranging from 5km to 27km. The new platform has made use of multiple high sites, including tall buildings, masts and water towers in the coverage area. Some 70% of the town has been reached using high capacity base stations and there are currently more than 120 end users operating across this broad base of the Lasernet network based on InfiNet Wireless.

In June 2017, Knysna was devastated by a runaway fire that burnt for weeks. Most of, if not all, the copper and fibre infrastructures in the area were destroyed, including the telephone and internet exchanges.

During the height of the disaster, an emergency command centre was set up to deal with the fire fighting and relief activities. Given that the operation of the legacy fixed telecommunication network was severely hampered due to the damage inflicted by the fires, Lasernet’s wireless infrastructure was used instead to co-ordinate the activities of all the emergency organisations working in the area, all requiring reliable means of voice communication, data transfers and video transmission.

Despite the intense heat and smoke from the fire, the InfiNet-based infrastructure remained unaffected throughout the duration of this disaster, with no effect on stability and throughput. Seamless and uninterrupted wireless connectivity meant that the municipality was indeed able to provide its relief efforts, which was for communicating to residents and visitors vital emergency information via social media and website updates.

Alan Otto, COO of Lasernet, said: “Clients in South Africa are normally wary of using wireless connectivity for mission critical applications because of their past experience when using other brands, especially in adverse weather conditions and natural disasters. However, InfiNet Wireless changed all that.

“We take great pleasure in being able to share with everyone in Knysna that even in the thick cloud of smoke and intense heat given off by the fires, the InfiNet links remained unaffected throughout the ordeal.”

In the past why have clients in South Africa been wary about using wireless connectivity for mission critical applications?

Traditionally, wireless connectivity was a cheap solution with quick and easy deployment. This resulted in a proliferation of devices being installed. The noise and interference generated resulted in instability for end user clients and became a last resort or temporary solution while alternate microwave, licensed band or fibre were on order.

What was the extent of the fire damage to Knysa?

A total of 16000Ha of forest was destroyed, 1600 houses were affected with 900 of them completely destroyed.

Had the InfiNet Wireless Solution stopped working what would the consequences have been for Knysa?

Communications and informative web access would have been impacted. The cell phone towers had varying degrees of operation due to power outages and possible backhaul fibre damage. The telephone infrastructure was severely impacted and the municipality and emergency services would have had to rely solely on two-way radio as the communication medium.

Why is it important for your company to use multiple high sites?

To ensure greater coverage for market penetration and client connectivity as well as providing alternate redundant routes and core routing strategies for traffic balancing across multiple triangulated routes.

What are the major benefits of using InfiNet’s solutions to operate your entire video delivery system?

The Infinet product provides a high-speed superior wireless solution that can be deployed within a couple of hours for clients to have instant connectivity for their business requirements. Infinet’s technology allows our media clients to have consistent high-speed throughput in order to move content ranging in size from gigabytes to terabytes across the world. Our media clients generally have an Infinet wireless connection as their primary connectivity medium or as a fail-over in the event that their primary fibre connectivity fails. Our clients opt for business continuity ensuring availability of service resulting in revenue growth.

Why did you choose to partner with InfiNet?

The product underwent extensive testing within our data intensive environment. Uptime, speed and ease of configuration were critical evaluation points. The product met all our evaluation criteria and once implemented in our network assisted in the growth of our business clients and revenue. Our sales team finally had confidence in a wireless product to propose to clients for their high-speed data requirements.

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