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The wireless port of Pipavav

GPPL deployed MIMO Wi-Fi to ensure seamless, robust, wireless communication. Dominic K reports



Jaspal Bakshi

Gujarat Port of Pipavav (GPPL) is India’s first port in the private sector. It is located in Saurashtra and is operated by APM Terminals, the third-largest container terminal operator in the world. Being a relatively new port, the port’s requirement was to run any existing or future application without bottlenecks.

The major objective of the deployment was to enable Wi-Fi hot-spots within the port campus using MIMO (Multiple Input-Multiple Output) technology. The bandwidth deployed would be a 10 Gbps uplink cable to avoid possible bottlenecks in running existing or future applications.

The wire-free choice

The adoption of MIMO Wi-Fi was mainly due to the low signal strength since the throughput of standard PCMCIA cards using both 802.11b and g products proved unsatisfactory. It was also to enable the single mode fibre-based backbone to cover geographically vast multiple remote locations with high bandwidth. This included implementation of voice over fibre using IP-PBX solutions so that the internal video conferencing and voice would be converged on the same data network.

Initial days

Prior to the implementation there was no wireless network at the port. It started with various models of wireless card bus adapters using both 802.11 b and g.

Jaspal Bakshi, GPPL’s President, IT, led the initiative to streamline various critical business processes and build an IT infrastructure with a 24x7 redundant backbone. The deployment was rolled out with GEO Integrators as the system integrators and D-Link as consultants.

The network was scalable to complement convergence with existing and all possible future IT and business support requirements. The initial equipment included D-Link’s DWL-120 11 Mbps, DWL-650+ 22 Mbps, DWL-630G 54 Mbps and DWL-650G+ 108 Mbps Wi-Fi cards.

Advantage MIMO

MIMO utilises a multiple antenna system to take advantage of the multi-path effect in radio frequency technology, rather than fight against it as conventional 802.11 access points do. The resulting improvement in both range and capacity provides substantially more reliable signal quality and greater bandwidth.

The other advantage is that it works in environments that have been traditionally thought of as the most challenging for wireless communication. MIMO also may work on a rich scattering environment, possibly with significant multi-path components to work to their full potential.

What's next?

Following the current deployment, GPPL has plans to implement ERP solutions such as SAP or IFS for bulk cargo and general port functions. It also plans to use VoIP and internal video conferencing for senior management.

Some the other major deployment plans are further expansion of the data and voice network, blade servers installation, and upgradation of TFT PCs and WAN bandwidth. The legacy EPABX will be upgraded to IPPBX in the next few months, and henceforth communication between the port and the Mumbai office will be through IP-enabled communication solutions. Deployment of WiMax technology is also on the cards as and when it is standardised and made available.

Transition time

Gujarat Port of Pipavav is India’s first port in the private sector. It is located in Saurashtra and is operated by
APM Terminals, the third-largest container terminal operator in the world

This equipment was shifted over to D-Link’s DWL-2100AP (access point), 2.4 GHz 802.11g high speed 108 Mbps access point with DWL-650M, and 108 Mbps 802.11g MIMO wireless card bus adapters with HDF-400 extension cable with Nplug to Njack.

Bakshi decided to install D-Link’s DWL-650M 108 Mbps and 802.11g MIMO wireless card bus adapter due to their advantages over other Wi-Fi cards. The throughput observed was approximately 80-90 Mbps, while in normal 802.11b/g cards it was only up to 30 Mbps.

It was also observed that the coverage of the MIMO Wireless Card was six to eight times better than the normal Wi-Fi-enabled devices if used with a MIMO router and access point

It was also observed that the coverage of the MIMO Wireless Card was six to eight times better than the normal Wi-Fi-enabled devices if used with a MIMO router and access point. Hence, to further improve the performance, MIMO routers or access points would be deployed.

For better signal reception and smooth data flow, ANT-24-1500 omni-directional antenna was deployed that would cover a radius of 10 km. The deployment included electrical safety equipment like surge arrestors and protectors.

GPPL opted for 10 Gbps network speed with 1 Gbps redundancy at the jetty because the network traffic was observed to be the densest there. Users at the jetty are presently using an ERP package called TOS for yard management and vessel planning. Due to higher bandwidth and coverage, MIMO also contributed to run bandwidth-intensive applications such as ERP and video conferencing.

The user traffic pertaining to ERP would be carried by the 10 Gigabit uplink from the jetty to the fibre backbone. Intranet users were converged on the same uplink. Currently, GPPL is running the Windows Enterprise Server 2003 Operating System with Windows XP SP2 for desktop users.

Phased deployment

The project was carried out in two phases. The first phase began by May 2005, which included fibre network design and cabling followed by the deployment of X-Stack high-end switches with redundancy at switch and fibre level.

The 10 G uplink cable was pulled from the new IT set-up up to the jetty. This in turn was connected to the GPPL server farm. The phase one deployment was completed by December 2005, and was critical to the success of phase two wireless connectivity.

The second phase included actual Wi-Fi MIMO technology-based deployment and installation. After due check and detailed observation, phase two was initiated by February 2006 and completed by April. To wirelessly connect from various remote locations, bridging was also deployed which added better signal reception over a wide distance within the port premises.

Civil work was carried out by GPPL, while the installation and commissioning of the entire network deployment was carried out by a team of professional from GEO Integrators. Testing with quality assurance and control were jointly conducted by an internal IT team of Port Pipavav and a team from GEO.

Post-deployment, according to Bakshi, “The productivity of our crane operators and that of the operations staff has improved considerably. GPPL is presently doing 40 moves per hour on an average. Other areas are expected to be covered and benefited with the proposed investment in IT to the tune of Rs 22 crore.”

 
     
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