University of Bahrain (UoB), the only national higher education institution in the Kingdom of Bahrain that offers mainly undergraduate Bachelor degrees and some postgraduate degrees, has implemented a state-of-the-art wireless network infrastructure from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, that provides high performance connectivity for over 26,000 students and 1,800 staff. Kanoo IT (a division of E. K. Kanoo Group), Aruba’s integration partner in Bahrain carried out the implementation and was instrumental in the success of the project.
Eng. Attiya, Director of IT Centre, University of Bahrain says, “We wanted our staff and students to take advantage of the mobility revolution as our goal is to transform into a digital university. A high performance Wi-Fi network would be fundamental to this vision.”
“As smartphone penetration in Bahrain exploded, we began to see these devices become much more prevalent in our campus. We were presented with an opportunity to introduce new mobile services but needed to upgrade our wireless infrastructure,” continues Eng. Attiya.
With a campus that sprawls over 5 sq. km in area and up to 10,000 simultaneous users on the Wi-Fi network, high-density, security, ease of installation and configuration, and rapid troubleshooting were key requirements for success.
One of the biggest challenges during deployment was the sheer scale of the project. Over 80 buildings had to be included for coverage and access to these could be hampered by security policies, university operational hours and other such factors.
To overcome this, Kanoo IT, led by Noufal Nannambra, Network Pre-Sales Manager, proposed the use of Aruba’s 7200 series mobility controllers. Utilizing these would allow the University’s engineering teams to simply install the APs as per their convenience, while the IT team could then remotely manage the setup and configuration. The integrator’s expertise in design has also enabled UOB to realise the true potential of the powerful Aruba mobility controllers.
The coverage and high-density characteristics of Aruba’s 802.11n access points has meant that APs installed in the hallways can provide ample coverage for the classrooms. So if any physical maintenance is required on an AP, it can be carried out without disruption to classes in session.
Eng. Attiya talks about the ease with which Aruba’s solutions can be integrated into multi-vendor environments saying, “At the time of our Wi-Fi overhaul, we also upgraded our core network with switches from a different technology vendor. However, the integration was seamless which helped keep the project on track.”
An immediate benefit of the upgrade has been the improvement in data transfer speeds and the ability of each AP to handle a high-density of simultaneous connections. This ability has proved to be of vital importance in areas where students tend to congregate.
Alabdi, Head of Information Networks Division – IT Centre, University of Bahrain says, “We offer a unique mobile app for student registration and during this period of the academic year, we have up to 600 students in one particular area. But since each Aruba AP can handle 100-120 simultaneous connections, we manage this peak volume with a minimal number of APs.”
“Aruba’s ClientMatch technology automatically connects client devices to the best possible access point. By eliminating sticky clients, the feature has enabled seamless roaming between APs without any noticeable drop in wireless network performance,” explains Alabdi.
Aruba’s solutions greatly simplify the administration and management of the wireless network. Each of the 450 APs can be centrally monitored and controlled and even updates can be pushed out centrally without the need for manual intervention.
Furthermore, the solution supports a wide number of mobile device platforms. “This has been of paramount importance since we see all types of devices and mobile operating systems connecting to our network. Yet, we never see users facing challenges due to this factor,” states Alabdi.
UOB’s confidence in its wireless network is further extended by the limited lifetime warranty that is offered on Aruba’s APs. Through its support contract with Kanoo IT, the University also enjoys same day replacement guarantees on vital components in the network.
Security has been another key area that Aruba’s solution has managed to address. “Thanks to Aruba’s built-in firewall, we have a high degree of security without added complexity. Furthermore, the solution easily integrates with other security devices in our environment,” says Alabdi.
With the first phase of the upgrade successfully completed, 70% of UOB’s campus now enjoys Wi-Fi coverage. “Our plan is to extend this coverage in phases based on the requirements of the various departments within the campus. With the continued support from Aruba and Kanoo IT, we look forward to expanding our network infrastructure, allowing it to match the growth and usage within the University,” he adds.
Mr. Alabdi and his team are keen to explore coverage for outdoor areas and expect that over the next two years, they will install up to 400 outdoor access points. The flexibility offered by Aruba’s platform means that such a network expansion can be easily implemented with minimal additional investment.
Reflecting on the success his organisation has enjoyed with Aruba, Alabdi said, “Back in 2008, we did extensive research to implement the best Wi-Fi solution on the campus and we chose Aruba. After nearly eight years, not only have our findings shown that Aruba was the best choice, but it has been instrumental in easing the continued growth in Wi-Fi use within our campus all these years. The recent upgrade using the latest Aruba technology has taken us one step closer to our digital transformation ambition. We look forward to having Aruba and Kanoo IT help the University of Bahrain be at the forefront of wireless solutions in the region.”