Fiber-optic network, Tablet PCs, Wi-Fi at G8 summit

As official delegations from eight major Western nations began the G8 Summit on Sea Island in Georgia earlier this month, their work was supported by a number of technologies put in place just for the three-day event.

The summit, convening in the U.S. for the first time in seven years, included officials from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.K.

Networks ranged from a massive 3,000-kilometre fibre-optic network installed by BellSouth Corp. in coastal Georgia to a free Wi-Fi network in Savannah and beefed-up cellular service.

Included in the technology mix are 780 push-to-talk cellular phones distributed to delegates and to federal, state and local staffers and security personnel by the Southern LINC division of Atlanta-based Southern Co., which also bolstered its network with the installation of a new tower on Sea Island, said Lonnie Pate, Southern LINC’s sales manager for south Georgia.

The phones are based on iDEN push-to-talk technology, Pate said. About 100 of them also incorporate GPS-based technology to track vehicles.

To support the phones, Cingular Wireless spent US$2 million on 20 new cell sites, including three on Sea Island, 16 in central Savannah and one in Brunswick, according to Cliff Minor, vice president and general manager of Cingular Wireless-Georgia.

When they weren’t using the phones, aides to the various heads of state would be able to take notes and conduct research using tablet computers from Motion Computing Inc., Office OneNote software from Microsoft Corp. and virtual office collaboration software from Groove Networks Inc., according to Tricia Traeger, a spokesperson for Austin-based Motion Computing. She said each G8 delegation would be able to use the tablets over a secure peer-to-peer network, using Microsoft OneNote to highlight notes that need more research.

The $4 million network installed by Atlanta-based BellSouth provided support for delegation members as well as myriad federal, state and local agencies in a 130-kilometre swath of coastal Georgia from Savannah to Brunswick, according to BellSouth spokesman Kevin Curtin.

Curtin said the fibre-optic network included self-healing fibre rings in Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Brunswick and Savannah, at the G8 media centre and for the agencies supporting the event. BellSouth also installed its Metro Ethernet service in Savannah, providing gigabit-speed connections between two or more Ethernet-based LANs.

BellSouth furnished all eight delegations with a wide range of communications services, “some more complex than others,” said Curtin, who declined to provide details. The network also served as the primary means of communication for the 20,000-person-strong security force deployed for the event.

BellSouth has equipped the G8 media centre, located in the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center, with two DS3 lines (45M bit/sec. each) to provide Internet access. And Savannah Spanish Moss Inc., a community-based free Wi-Fi network that started operation just this month, installed a Wi-Fi node to cover the outdoor areas of the convention centre, according to Marc Marling, chairman of Spanish Moss and a lawyer at Hunter MacLean Exley & Dunn PC in Savannah.

The free Wi-Fi node at the G8 media centre, which was installed by Southern Linux in Savannah, was created using developmental models of the company’s Linux-driven access points, said Bob Ketterhagen, CEO of Southern Linux. He views the summit as a way to demonstrate the capabilities of the company’s Linux access points.

The Spanish Moss network used Model 1230 access points from Cisco Systems Inc., which operate under the 802.11b standard, as well as Cisco Model 350 wireless bridges in its downtown Savannah nodes. The networking hardware for the wireless network was paid for by Advanced Business Software/Computerland Savannah, according to the company’s business development manager, Adger Ross.

Ross said he sees the G8 summit as a way to showcase the city’s nascent free Wi-Fi network.

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