Wireless rollout at Iraq base tries muni Wi-Fi model

20,000 at Joint Base Balad could eventually subscribe to the service

US military personnel at Joint Base Balad in Iraq are receiving wireless Internet connections on a subscription basis via a satellite uplink and a ruggedized wireless LAN.

About 1,000 soldiers and airmen have subscribed for US$60 per month to send e-mail and browse the Web. When the network is finished in November, it should reach 20,000 enlisted personnel on one of the largest bases in the region, said Lucas Catranis, president and chief technology officer at Babylon Telecommunications, the integrator on the project.

Babylon has installed about 250 ruggedized Wi-Fi access points from Aruba Networks on the base, Catranis said. "We chose Aruba because of their ability to support higher numbers of clients than other vendors could," he explained. "Balad is like a small city with a lot of security requirements."

The network, which offers 256Kbit/sec. downlink speeds and 128Kbit/sec. uplink speeds, is relatively expensive because of the cost of the satellite uplink, which involves several providers, Catranis said. But soldiers get per diem expenses for all or part of the cost, he added.

All told, the network has cost Babylon about $1 million to install, and the government is not paying for anything, Catranis said. That economic model makes the service similar to what municipal Wi-Fi was supposed to be for US cities, even though that model hasn't panned out because providers couldn't find advertising or revenues to pay for buildouts, Catranis said.

"It makes sense to build such a service here, on a base, with a captive audience in a densely populated area," he noted. Advertising from Babylon isn't added to the content that soldiers receive, "and we have no intention of providing it," he added.

Dave Logan, general manager of federal solutions at Aruba, said the company's gear makes it easier for connections from a variety of client machines. For most part, soldiers and airmen on the base carry their own personal laptops and gaming devices. The connectivity makes it easier to e-mail home or to set up an online game, Logan said.

Mike Ford, head of business development at defense contractor First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, said he spoke to troops at Balad who are "very excited" to have the Wi-Fi system. He said there were initially some problems with reception inside of housing made of shipping containers with thick steel walls that inhibit Wi-Fi transmissions. But the users have been "extremely happy with the quality of reception and strength of signal" since some changes were made to the design, Ford noted.

"It is far better than waiting in line for limited access at an Internet cafe," Ford added. So far, the system allows most Internet functions, but not VoIP applications, which are expected later.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags wireless lan

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Hamblen

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?