KAUST launches new project to bring high speed, reliable community Wi-Fi service

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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KAUST launches Wi-Fi project
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Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has announced that it would bring high-speed, reliable community Wi-Fi service to more than 3,000 people with help of innovative, low-cost radio technology.

This deployment has been conducted in collaboration with the Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) and Meta, and is expected to scale through similar locations across the region, bringing affordable high-speed Internet access to hundreds of thousands of people.

According to the statement, “As a world-class leading research institution, KAUST’s mission includes leveraging cutting-edge research to give back to the community.”

The Modern Architectural Contracting Company (MACC) camp, located about 1.5 km from the KAUST campus, previously offered no Internet connectivity due to the lack of high-speed backhaul and distribution capacity to the Wi-Fi nodes.

Hybrid radio frequency and free space optics (RF/FSO) systems have emerged as a promising solution for reliable high-data-rate wireless connection between KAUST and the MACC camp.

“The deployment of Terragraph, a gigabit wireless technology developed by Meta, is allowing the validation of KAUST research in extreme bandwidth communication (i.e., mm-wave RF and FSO), with the potential to develop new practical switching algorithms for hybrid mm-wave RF/FSO links,” KAUST said in a statement.

“Fiber would have been way too expensive to deploy, not only as a backhaul between KAUST and the camp but also as a distribution technology within the camp, notwithstanding the lack of flexibility as housing configurations tend to change. We needed a low-cost, high-speed alternative to fiber that can be redeployed at little to no cost. Terragraph was the perfect choice,” said Dr. Mohamed-Slim Alouini, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Terragraph, now available through several equipment manufacturers, operates in the license-free 57-71GHz band, supports data rates of up to 3 Gbps, and boasts advanced fault-tolerant mesh routing protocol for capacity distribution.

Dr. Mohammed Alotaibi, deputy governor, of Radio Spectrum at CST, stated that, “Our goal at CST is to unlock the potential of radio communication in Saudi Arabia for a smarter and safer future by enabling emerging technologies, such as the hybrid mm-wave/FSO systems of the trail. We will achieve that through assisting innovation by making a variety of bands available for new concepts in a range of different manners from trial licenses to shared and short-term access.”

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