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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags wireless lan

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

Matt Hamblen

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?