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    ICBC Argentina: Embracing Wi-Fi 6 for a Digital Future

With the increasing popularity of smart terminals and the surging growth of e-commerce, the banking industry is undergoing wholesale transformation, toward comprehensive digitalization and smart finance. And as new business needs develop — from mobility to ultra-customization — major banks across the world are making huge efforts to transform themselves and embrace emerging, new trends.

In Argentina, such transformation is perhaps best exemplified by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) Argentina. Back in November 2012, ICBC acquired an 80% stake in Standard Bank Argentina and officially changed its name to ICBC Argentina. This new entity — one of the largest banking flagships of ICBC outside China itself — is the seventh-largest bank in the country, having provided credit for nearly 400 major enterprises domestically and established business cooperation relationships with 70% of large-scale enterprises nationwide. Indeed, the bank is one of the most important financial service providers in Argentina's agricultural sector and provides ongoing support for the country's strategic industry sectors, from oil and gas to mineral resources and automobile manufacturing.

Financial Industry Office Networks Are Struggling in the Era of Mobile Intelligence

Since its appearance in 2012, ICBC Argentina's operating efficiency and brand influence have been steadily increasing. Its insurance asset custody and forward foreign exchange transaction business ranks number one nationally and, as mobilization and digitalization sweep across industries, the bank is committed to providing customers with a more convenient and intelligent operating experience. In early 2018, for example, ICBC Argentina pioneered a variety of brand-new mobile banking services, such as rapid online transactions through Quick Response (QR) code scanning on cellphones.

However, the Office Automation (OA) system and Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure of ICBC Argentina began to struggle in the face of rapidly developing mobile commerce, increasing customer demand for Internet finance and new payment modes, and the exponential growth of business volumes from various service channels. Indeed, the legacy Wi-Fi devices at the bank's campus headquarters proved unable to provide smooth OA network services during peak hours, seriously affecting office efficiency.

In the face of these mounting challenges, ICBC Argentina decided to deploy a faster and more stable wireless network, to improve processing efficiency, implement real-time handling of diverse business demands, and minimize system operating costs. Now, the bank's new wireless network has laid a solid foundation for the fast provisioning of ever more innovative banking services as well as the rapid implementation of more extensive digital transformation needs, providing much needed business agility.

Embracing Wi-Fi 6 for an Agile Campus Network

Eager to deploy a solution that could cope with its immediate network challenges as well as fulfill its long-term plans, ICBC Argentina opted for Huawei's agile wireless network solution. The solution — built from Huawei's years of experience constructing fully-wireless campus networks and its expertise in terms of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) — is based on industry-leading, next generation AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 technology. Solution highlights include an End to End (E2E) design philosophy, highly reliable carrier-grade devices, a fully-wireless access mode, and a centralized management platform. Together, these features enable higher office efficiency by providing a highly reliable mobile office experience for ICBC Argentina's employees.

• Fully-wireless high-speed access built on Wi-Fi 6: Huawei AirEngine AP7060DN — a next generation Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) wireless Access Point (AP) — was the industry’s first commercial Wi-Fi 6 product, offering built-in omni-directional antennas and 12 spatial streams, achieving a device rate of up to 6 Gbit/s. While the AP is well suited to the bandwidth-hungry services of the bank during peak hours, bringing an optimal Wi-Fi access experience for employees, it also provides an Internet of Things (IoT) extended port for connecting to external IoT modules housing Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) and ZigBee IoT cards, flexibly expanding IoT applications.

• Flexible user permission control: Huawei AirEngine 9700-M is a wireless Access Controller (AC) that enables flexible user permission control and sets access control policies by user or role, to distinguish the employee network from the guest network, meeting the bank's demanding requirements for secure access to the employee office network.

• Simplified, centralized management platform: Huawei eSight supports centralized management of wired and wireless devices alike, and grants intuitive insights into network traffic management, network quality monitoring, and security policy management. eSight realizes centralized management of the two campus networks of ICBC Argentina and can rapidly demarcate faults — significantly simplifying network O&M, improving O&M efficiency, and lowering the demands for O&M skills.

Future-Oriented, Accelerating Digital Transformation Redefines Connectivity Experience

For ICBC Argentina, adopting next generation Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 products is about more than technical infrastructure; it also represents a mindset that is future-oriented and pregnant with initiative. Indeed, Wi-Fi 6 is by far the fastest Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology available, empowering enterprises by significantly improving network capacity and minimizing network latency. And Wi-Fi 6 will make an even bigger difference in the future, as user terminals continue to evolve.

"Buying Wi-Fi 6 to refurbish the network of one of our buildings is a bet on the future, because almost 100% of our current Wi-Fi devices do not support the new standard, 802.11ax," said Carlos Gamallo, Internet Protocol (IP) Network Manager of ICBC Argentina.

"In order to start testing this technology, we installed two new Wi-Fi 6 APs in the conference room area on a certain floor of another building. The results showed that the 'AP first, terminals following' strategy is effective. Yes, after the upgrade, even if we cannot take full advantage of the AP's capabilities in the beginning, it can still improve the user online experience. The new AP also has the ability to manage a high number of concurrent customers, avoiding network saturation during peak periods.

"In the future, as user endpoints are gradually upgraded to support Wi-Fi 6, we will begin to see some of the most important improvements brought about by the new standard: increased energy conservation for equipment, a reduction in frequency band congestion, the ability to share channels, and the improvement in roaming between APs."

Aiming to build stable, reliable Wi-Fi connectivity anytime, anywhere through next generation ICT infrastructure, ICBC Argentina plans to gradually introduce Wi-Fi 6 best practices to its campus headquarters as well as its branch campus networks. This approach will support and accelerate business innovation, improve business efficiency, and empower the bank's digital transformation.