Will Elon Musk be able to realize his vision of free Wi-Fi for all inhabitants of the Earth? The municipality of Brześć Kujawski in Poland decided not to wait for it to happen – instead, it joined the European WiFi4EU program. And in this undertaking it decided to use the support of an integrator – Tritech New Technologies and proven solutions from Extreme Networks!
Free wireless Internet access for tourists and European citizens in public places such as parks, community centres, libraries, offices, museums and hospitals has been a regular item on the European Commission's agenda for years. The result of these activities is the WiFi4EU initiative, under which municipalities can apply for funding for the purchase of equipment as well as the design and implementation of the network in the amount of EUR 15,000.
Let the numbers alone show how popular the program actually is. In 2017-2019, the program worth EUR 150 million covered nearly 9 thousand municipalities. During the first round, 3.5 thousand applications were submitted within the first 5 seconds. In the second round, 97.5% of the available vouchers were distributed within... one minute. Brześć Kujawski, a municipality of over eleven thousand inhabitants in central Poland, in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province, was among those lucky ones.
Fewer payments, more Internet
Although the program can be used to cover the equipment and installation costs, operating costs are to be borne by the beneficiaries. In practice, this means that the municipalities joining the program usually look for solutions which, on the one hand, will ensure good network capabilities and, on the other, will not generate additional costs.
– During talks with the customer, we proposed solutions that met the WiFi4EU guidelines and, at the same time, those for which it would not be necessary to purchase license fees. According to the assumptions of the program, the contractor is responsible for service and guarantee care for the period of 3 years. It was therefore important that after that time the municipality should not bear any additional costs in regards to the implemented network – explains Marcin Kopiński, Business Development Manager at Tritech New Technologies, the contractor of the project.
– Our priorities included being able to meet the technical criteria, ease of use in the form of a network management center located in one place, as well as no license fees. The exemption from monthly costs for installed access points after 3 years was crucial for us, especially at the stage of selecting a specific solution. At the implementation stage, Tritech offered us more access points, thanks to which we could add more locations to the network – recalls Grzegorz Czarniak, a representative of Brześć Kujawski municipality.
Local vision, global network
What was the design process like and what were the indications for specific solutions and the implementation itself? The contractor, Tritech New Technologies, was chosen based on the indication on a dedicated EU website. And the topic of Extreme Networks was already discussed at the first meeting in the municipality's headquarters, when the company specialists proposed to use a solution based on the Extreme VX-9000 controller together with an analytical system. For indoor use, ExtremeWireless™ WiNG 7632 access point was recommended, and for the outdoor use – ExtremeWireless™ WiNG 7662.
– Extreme Networks’ technologies, being one of the best wireless solutions in the world, have been offered by us for several years now with great success, both in the WiFi4EU program and in projects for medical or telecommunications customers, where reliability, security and a great potential for network scalability are required. Extreme solutions easily integrate with the existing infrastructure, enabling the construction of flexible and secure networks, while the use of Software-Defined Networking technology allows for easy network management – says Marcin Kopiński while presenting arguments in favor of the solutions.
Based on the local vision, during which the places indicated by the municipality were verified, technical documentation was prepared, preceded by the consultations with engineers from Extreme. Validation of the AP range at this stage confirmed the requirements for the selected locations, and the presented proposal was met with appreciation from the customer. The devices suggested at the very beginning of the talks were actually used at the implementation stage.
APpetite for more
Thus, Brześć Kujawski was among 130 local governments in Poland and 2,800 in Europe, which have implemented the WiFi4EU program. The result of the project was the installation and configuration of 11 external and 2 internal hotspots, which today operate, among others, in the city hall, schools and kindergartens, in city sports and recreation centers and in the bus station.
– Thanks to the WiFi4EU program, we were able to build a wireless network based on branded equipment that eventually met our expectations. So far, almost a year after commissioning, we have not experienced any failures or problems. Our wish was that the network would operate practically maintenance-free and this goal was achieved – says Grzegorz Czarniak. – Our municipality has joined the global network, which is an additional opportunity for the inhabitants to connect with the world. While observing the number of network logons, we are already trying to participate in the government edition of the WiFi4PL program, thanks to which we will be able to connect even more locations within our municipality. We are as open to reusing Extreme solutions as possible, as well as to further cooperation with Tritech – he concludes.
And such cooperation might be fruitful indeed. Apart from Brześć Kujawski, Tritech New Technologies can boast full implementation and settlement of the network construction projects under the WiFi4EU program for 11 other municipalities in Poland, with another 11 projects being implemented and talks already underway with other local governments.