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TMCNet:  World connection [CommsMEA (United Arab Emirates)]

[December 15, 2013]

World connection [CommsMEA (United Arab Emirates)]

(CommsMEA (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dubai Airshow, which took place last month, saw the world's leading aviation players jostle for attention in front of international media. It also put the spotlight on Dubai's glittering new airport, Al Maktoum International, and DWC, a 140 square kilometre area designed to support activities including logistics and aviation-related business.

But while rows of jumbo jets and helicopters may have stolen the limelight, the ICT infrastructure that allows the entire development to connect to the rest of the world just worked seamlessly in the background, belying the effort that went into its deployment.

Indeed, deploying and managing such as vast network, which includes a core telecom network with fibre optic links, backbone and LTE, was no mean feat. In fact the task was deemed so niche that a dedicated company, Smartworld, was established to handle the project.

Smartworld, a joint venture between UAE telco Etisalat and DWC, was established in 2008 as a next generation ICT services provider to deliver integrated networks and offer managed services. While the company's main priority was to deliver the ICT networks at DWC and Al Maktoum International, it also planned to work on projects in other sectors, and even expand beyond the UAE.

"In DWC what we are doing is a managed open and equal access network. We designed the network and we designed the data centres where this is hosted. We operate and manage these data centres. This is a very typical network, it has got a core network, aggregation network, and an access layer," says Mohamed Fouz, CEO of Smartworld.

"We have set up a mesh network which powers all 140 sq km [of DWC] and we have been building this network on demand. We have been modifying it over a period of time, as this area has undergone a transformation and the plans have changed in terms of the utilisation of it.

"It is a typical telecom network which is being utilised to deliver not just the regulated services but also the managed ICT services," he adds.

But what makes the network stand out is its capacity. As the project developed, the technology available also advanced. When Smartworld first started building the network in 2007, it used active Ethernet to deliver the services. But as GPON took off, the company decided to embrace the new technology to achieve the capacity that it expected the companies at DWC would ultimately require.

"We decided almost a year and a half back that we would be utilising the power of the GPON network because this is now mature and suits the requirement of the demands of the services it is delivering," Fouz says. "Our goal was to make all of this area gigabit capable so that even if the demand increases up to 1 gigabit we should be in a position to give it to the customer." Fouz explains Smartworld's decision to embrace GPON. "[DWC] was expected to be a business area at that time and we expected the services required by the businesses would be more symmetric in nature, but soon we realised the same services can be delivered using GPON. So GPON had that flexibility, and it can offer both asymmetric and symmetric," he says. "At the same time it gives you an advantage of a shared bandwidth because a lot of services which are being offered by the service provider are best offered if you utilise those capabilities as well." [[page-break]] Fouz says that Smartworld is considering migrating its customers that are still using the "old technology" on to the GPON network. "We will do in an ordered fashion because it is live with customer traffic. We have a roadmap for that," he says. "There is no pressure from the customer to do so because they are using it, services are running fine but you will see that growth of network infrastructure would be in the GPON area and that is what we want to do." Smartworld's network is connected the networks of the main telcos, Etisalat and Du, via fibre optic backhaul links. "We work very closely with the service providers to deliver their services into the network, because we are not the service provider ourselves." Indeed, while Smartworld manages the network spanning the site, the companies that are locating there, which are primarily logistics companies, still deal directly with Etisalat for their main telecoms services. "So if someone wants to order for example, a 40Mb broadband connection, they will approach Etisalat and we manage this network on behalf of Etisalat.

"Etisalat is at the same time providing the services but they are also our customer because they use the same network to provide the mobile backhaul, the 2G, 3G and 4G," Fouz adds.

While Etisalat provides standard internet and telephone services at the site, Fouz says that Smartworld is leveraging its GPON network to deliver managed ICT services, managed desktop services and the like. And to this end, the company works with an impressive list of partners including Juniper Networks, EMC, Oracle, Cisco and Bluecoat, to name just a few.

"Going with the market demands we modified our network and those services are unregulated so we can offer them, we have a NOC. We can offer a complete suite of services. For example, we can manage all of their servers, we can run the whole of their IT operations and that is what this network is potentially being used for. Now we are increasing access to these services, people are asking for these services and we are offering them," he says.

Smartworld recently implemented an LTE network at DWC, which was up and running in time for the Dubai Airshow. "That is a technical milestone that we had achieved," Fouz says. "We have delivered very uniquely from a single box 2G, 3G and 4G. [DWC] It is fully covered by LTE. This was completed two months ago and it was specifically for this area." In terms of the main challenges of handling the ICT infrastructure and services at DWC, Fouz points to the rapid growth in demand. "For us the biggest challenge has been to handle the growth that we have witnessed in the past year. There has been a sudden increase in the demand for services – the variety of services in terms of the bandwidth, and keeping up with the pace at which the service providers are upgrading their services. Earlier a 100Mb internet link was never heard of, now at Dubai Airshow we have multiple 100Mb links which have been provisioned." Another challenge was extending the network to cover the development as demand for connectivity spread geographically across the site from DWC's headquarters to the logistics area. "Building a network on demand was actually one of the challenges that we had." At present, the logistics companies and the users of the freight forwarding agencies form the bulk of the end users of Smartworld's network. Smartworld's network also covers the basic telecoms services at Al Maktoum International airport and so data traffic from passengers will also grow as use of the airport grows.

[[page-break]] At DWC, Smartworld has provisioned more than 800 links, giving a capacity to handle up to 4000 individual telephone lines. "We are expecting tremendous growth which is being led by the airport expansion, opening of the PTB (passenger terminal building) and an economy that is shaping up. We expect double digit growth for sure, maybe it will run to 30% or 40% growth." Indeed, Fouz expects to see significant growth as companies begin to locate their offices in DWC. "What we will see next, our growth will be coming from the office towers which are already constructed by DWC." DWC is also developing warehouses, and as these are completed and warehousing companies move in, so more demand will be created for Smartworld's services. "We are trying to match our service offering timing with their moving in timing," Fouz says. He adds that Smartworld is planning to offer managed services and cloud-based services to these companies.

"We were born to do this," he says. "This company was established to do the network in this area, so that came naturally to us. It was not just the telecoms part of this but the managed services part. So the whole idea is that the moment a company comes in, the vision of DWC is he will have the best infrastructure." While Fouz is keen to stress that Smartworld is now considered a specialist in airport systems integration, he adds that the company is also looking beyond airports and aviation hubs for business. "We are already doing it," he says.

"A big part of our services is managed ICT services. We have been offering our ICT services to a lot of non-governmental agencies and we have been running and operating their networks, their IT operations for almost two and half years," he adds.

Dubai world central - essential facts Dubai World Central is fast becoming the aviation and logistics hub for Dubai. The DWC freezone covers 140 square kilometres of land and is twice the size of Hong Kong. Dubai World Central is comprised of eight districts: logistics, aviation, Al Maktoum International Airport, humanitarian, residential, commercial, leisure, exhibition and commercial.

Currently phase one is under construction and there are currently over 100 tenants from some of the world's largest aviation, logistics, business and freight forwarding companies including Aramex, RSA, Al Futtaim and National Air Cargo. The Al Maktoum airport is also currently open for cargo and will open later this year for business and passenger.

Dubai World Central is an aerotropolis concept, with cities around the airport containing businesses relating to the airport. DWC is the landlord and developer of the plot of land, which was given to DWC by HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Most of the plots in the residential city have already been sold, and construction is pending.

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