Wi-Fi network provides remote access in Mongolian capital

A major Mongolian Internet service provider has launched the country’s largest Wi-Fi access network in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Nomsys LLC is using equipment from Ruckus Wireless for the network.

The large-scale Wi-Fi network, known as the Community Involved Nomad Wi-Fi project, is currently being deployed by Nomsys throughout Ulaanbaatar, bringing Wi-Fi service to consumers and businesses via hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the rural countryside where 70% of the city’s one million residents live.  

The goal of the project is to make Wi-Fi access easy and ubiquitous within underdeveloped rural areas of the city’s capital, for people who barely have essentials others take for granted - such as electricity - within their tents and houses.

To build out its network footprint with wireless points of presence, Nomsys is deploying indoor and outdoor access points (APs) in the city’s suburbs, as well as providing free Wi-Fi access points to select families that will in turn use this device to provide paid wireless access to others within a given area.

Limited fixed line cabling coupled with erratic cellular coverage and performance has made it nearly impossible to provide reliable electronic communication in places such as Mongolia. Because Mongolia is sparsely populated and a significant portion of the population still lives a nomadic lifestyle, it has been extremely difficult for many traditional information technologies to make headway into Mongolian society. Wireless technologies have had greater success and are becoming increasingly common, even in rural areas. 

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), penetration of fixed line broadband reached 2.6 inhabitants per capita within Mongolia. Wi-Fi is a key technology that is helping Mongolia increase accessibility to telecommunications and bypass fixed-line infrastructure. 

Given its economical appeal and the growth of wireless-enabled handheld devices, Wi-Fi represents a major opportunity within Mongolia and other third world countries to quickly bring broadband access to millions of people of all societal status.

In the outer areas of Ulaanbaatar, Wi-Fi connectivity has become a necessity as 3G and WIMAX networks have proven to be cost-prohibitive – both for carriers needing to install the required infrastructure, and for users who must purchase special receivers to get connectivity.

“The rural areas of Ulaanbaatar are very densely populated, and people who live there have very low income,” said Nomsys Founder and CEO, Bat-Erdene Gankhuyag (G.Bat-Erdene). “For a majority of households there is no running water, central heating, and no sewage system. To require them to purchase costly equipment in order to gain cellular connectivity is just not plausible, which is why Wi-Fi is the ideal solution. Also, the involvement of the community itself is the key to success.”

G.Bat-Erdene explained that while more than 30 ISPs operate in Ulaanbaatar’s urban centre, few serve the rural district. This prompted the Nomsys Nomad Wi-Fi project to give residents connectivity to the digital world.

“Internet access is becoming an essential element to how people now live, wherever they are,” said G.Bat-Erdene. “Reliable Wi-Fi access increases economic opportunities and facilitates faster communications that can improve everyone’s life. Broadband access is no longer a luxury that should only be available to a certain people, but rather a necessity to improve the quality of life for everyone.”

Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital in the world, where temperatures in the winter can reach -45 degrees Celsius. Ruckus ZoneFlex outdoor APs have internal heaters and a hard exterior coating to keep them and the network protected from these kinds of extreme, harsh weather conditions. “No matter how severe the conditions, the Ruckus equipment was designed for carriers and stringent carrier conditions.  It has proven to perform flawlessly to date,” said G.Bat-Erdene.

The root APs are connected to a fibre optic network, developed in the city by Nomsys, and then meshed to five or six APs, all within a single hop. “So far we’re seeing really solid performance. We’re supporting upwards of 50,000 devices connected, and at peak usage times as many as 600 concurrent users have accessed the network,” he said.

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