Imagine a city where residents, businesses, and visitors surf the Internet and use ICT-enabled services anytime, anywhere, via a citywide high-speed, broadband wireless network. Citizens can plug into a world of information in a faster, more convenient, and secure way.
A wireless city provides the foundation for accessing all manner of digital and intelligent information applications. Wireless connectivity is the gateway to modern information platforms that integrate the mobile Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT) with city-operated data centers. A large amount of aggregated data and applications on this platform deliver unprecedented benefits to citizens, businesses, and city administrators. Citizens enjoy added convenience while shopping, traveling, learning, and receiving healthcare. Businesses have access to powerful tools that help spur their production, sales, marketing, and management. City administrators benefit from improvements in open governance, public safety, and city management.
An infrastructure of wireless Access Points (APs) is a ‘fifth utility,’ following water, electricity, gas, and transportation. Wireless city initiatives are an important part of any Smart City program and have become key indicators when measuring a city’s competitive factors. It is no surprise that the construction of wireless cities is blooming around the globe. By the end of 2015, more than 2,000 wireless cities had been built worldwide.
Riding the global wave of wireless-city deployments, in 2015 Dongguan — a city in southern China’s manufacturing heartland — announced an ‘Information Benefiting the People’ initiative that promised to deploy tens of thousands of free AP locations across the city’s public places as a Top 10 government work priority.
To date, the Dongguan municipal government has installed nearly 30,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots in 338 major public places. Citizens now have access to free, high-speed, and secure wireless Internet services immediately after downloading a wireless access App onto their mobile phones.
Wireless Network is Key
Today, mobile phones have become an essential part of our daily lives. In the fast-growing city of Dongguan, with a huge population of migrants and young people, the need for a high-speed Wi-Fi network was obvious.
Dongguan’s free Wi-Fi network (named DG-FREE) is enabling those working, living, and traveling within the city to have ubiquitous wireless access to information services. City administrators benefit from the free network through the ability to push social management and public service improvements. This combination helps attract more enterprises and highly skilled talent to Dongguan.
The Dongguan wireless initiative includes a wide range of locations, including 177 government service offices, 13 metro stations and train equipment yards, 15 parks, 21 cultural and 3 sports venues, and 99 medical institutions. Challenges for building a wireless city in Dongguan included the following:
Complex coverage: Wireless deployment involved many diverse coverage scenarios, such as large crowds in transportation stations and sports venues, outdoor APs in parks and pedestrian walkways, large numbers of rooms in schools and hospitals, and high-speed mobility in metros and railways. These scenarios differ in environmental characteristics and network needs.
Strong security: A government responsibility when giving citizens free Wi-Fi access is to provide adequate levels of security — first by preventing people from misusing network bandwidth, such as spreading malicious software, and also to defend citizens against phishing, hacker attacks, and other kinds of information tampering.
Difficult O&M: The deployment of tens of thousands of AP devices is a challenging task to configure, manage, and troubleshoot over such a large network.
A Tailored Solution
After evaluating multiple vendors, the Dongguan municipal government chose Huawei as the primary solution and service provider for its wireless access project. With years of experience in the WLAN sector, Huawei understood the details required to deliver a successful solution for this project.
Efficient AP Deployment
Huawei’s industry-leading outdoor wireless APs are equipped with built-in directional antennas as is necessary for bus and train stations, sports venues, and other crowded places. Compared to wide beamwidth antennas that frequently suffer Internet access failures caused by signal interference, Huawei APs have small-angle antennas that deliver precision coverage, ensuring high-quality Internet access.
Outdoor wireless coverage along city streets and parks, transportation backbones, and equipment yards is more challenging than in indoor environments. Among many reasons is because outdoor AP equipment has to withstand all kinds of weather, such as cold, heat, lightning, wind, and rain. In response, Huawei deployed IP67-rated industrial-grade APs to protect against dust and temporary water immersion.
For medical institutions with large numbers of outpatient clinics and wards, Huawei’s industry leading distributed APs ensure wireless coverage without blind spots. Central APs connect downstream to 48 Remote Units (RUs), with each RU covering a single room. This network topology is well-suited for supporting doctors and nurses that require zero signal interruptions as they make their rounds carrying mobile phones or tablets between rooms. Compared to traditional APs that cannot ensure full signal coverage, Huawei’s APs deliver 360-degree, comprehensive wireless coverage.
What’s more, Huawei’s scenario-specific APs enable Dongguan citizens to watch streaming video with no jitter in crowded environments on their mobile devices. DG-FREE has become a common choice for citizens to experience high-quality Wi-Fi services. Statistics show that more than one million people have registered on this platform since its Fall 2016 debut.
Huawei deployed a Unified Security Gateway firewall at the independent Internet egress of Dongguan’s wireless city network. The firewall can identify more than 6,000 applications and more than 85 million URLs. Comprehensive content control and auditing prevents information leakage and meets regulatory requirements for compliance. Multi-dimensional protection of Internet users allows them to be malware-free. Accurate reports assist in managing the wireless city network.
In addition, Huawei WLAN products defend against wireless phishing by illegal APs and quickly detect and isolate these false APs, helping users evade phishing sites and avoid threats such as information leakage and data tampering. This design empowers citizens in Dongguan to enjoy worry-free, easy-to-use, free Wi-Fi.
A wireless city project involves a wide range of sectors and a large amount of equipment. Network deployment and O&M in a wireless city is a key task that must be taken seriously. To efficiently handle this task, a modern Network Management System (NMS) is needed to accelerate network deployment, strengthen performance monitoring, and speed up troubleshooting.
Huawei eSight is a next-generation NMS specifically designed for enterprise networks. It centrally manages network resources, services, and users and implements intelligent coordination and collaboration.
eSight also centrally manages IT, IP, and third-party equipment and provides a flexible open platform to build a tailored wireless network management system. eSight provides three primary types of management functions for Dongguan’s DG-FREE project:
Wizard-based equipment configuration, service deployment, and management
WLAN network status visualization
Comprehensive fault monitoring
O&M personnel can monitor the operating status of the network in real time through performance, alarm, and physical resource management. Periodic WLAN-related reports produced by eSight help users easily manage and maintain the entire network.
Citizens Benefit from Convenience
To date, hundreds of thousands of people in Dongguan are enjoying the convenience of a wireless city. After an initial authentication step using a mobile phone App, such as WeChat’s Mini Program, citizens have access to a high-quality Wi-Fi network without time or traffic constraints.
When connected to DG-FREE, Dongguan citizens can make medical appointments, query social security information, deal with government agencies and school enrollment, check traffic violations, and tackle other matters, including locating moving buses in real time and buying train or plane tickets.
As the user base steadily grows, the city government is making use of the collected Big Data in three key sectors: government decision making, public security, and patterns of commercial consumption. This move makes it possible to deliver more precise services to government agencies, businesses, and citizens.
A wireless city is an integral part of a Smart City initiative. It is also an indispensable way to deliver more benefits to citizens, vitalize the economy, and improve governance using the latest ICT technologies. As the world’s leading ICT solutions provider, Huawei has a proven track record in the WLAN sector. Huawei assists the Dongguan municipal government in enabling citizens to enjoy free, high-quality Wi-Fi access and open a new chapter in the ‘smart’ lifestyle.