Niagara Falls Bridge Commission spans wireless gap

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is building a wireless network to support one of the busiest passageways between Canada and the United States.

A spokesman said Monday the organization is using licensed-frequency

Ethernet radios from Ottawa-based DragonWave Inc. to manage communications over the network, which has been live since July. The next phase will involve building support for video-over-IP security traffic, which is expected to be completed sometime next year.

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission runs three international bridges, but staff works out of six locations because there are plazas on both sides of the bridges in both countries. Until now, the organization was using seven PBXes with voice-over-IP technology to communicate between them.

Mike O’Reilly, the Bridge Commission’s head of MIS-IT, said the organization picked DragonWave after a botched pilot project using Witlink products.

“”We found nothing but problems with the IP interfaces on those radios,”” he said. “”We ripped those radios out and went back to the 11 MBps. It sustained our VoIP, but we were also putting a security project in here, and that’s what also drove the need for a larger pipe.””

DragonWave vice-president of sales and marketing Ken Davison said reliability is among the most important priorities for its customers.

“”If you’re (deploying) different services with multiple traffic types, one of the key areas that keeps coming back is that of service-level guarantees,”” he said. “”You want to be able to upgrade in an interference-free environment.””

The Bridge Commission has about 80 or 90 computers with 215 servers, O’Reilly said. Ongoing transactions supported by the network include voice calls, toll transactions, lane-closure alerts and other standard business applications. Approximately 40 Mbps of the 100 Mbps pipe will be set aside to allow for the video-over-IP.

“”The biggest pitfall is taking at face value the companies that are bringing these things to market,”” O’Reilly said. “”You’ve got people that are either from an RF background or IP background attacking these situations. The one that they’re weak on is where they have their problems.””

IP specialists may not know enough about RF, for example, and will have interference on the RF spectrum, or they won’t know how to deploy or install it.

DragonWave is trying to differentiate itself by recruiting staff with both skill sets, Davison said. “”Many of us come from the networking community,”” he said. “”Historically on the RF side, you’ve got people with a very in-depth knowledge of RF — putting up radio heads, et cetera. Once you start trying to connect a router, running video, voice-over-IP, it becomes a networking issue.””

An estimated nine million vehicles pass over the three bridges each year.

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