Vail Increases Network Connectivity by 200% with Siklu

Guest Editorial by Alex Doorduyn, Siklu’s Director of Business Development and Sales

With more than 5,200 acres of terrain, Vail Ski Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in the world, hosting concerts and music festivals for large audiences throughout the year.

Approximately 2 million visitors from all over the world come to the area annually to enjoy the resort’s amenities and powder snow.

The town encourages the use of public transportation and also offers free wireless Internet to residents and visitors, a popular service that is used heavily during special events.

To connect town buildings, such as city hall, the visitors’ center and the fire department, with parking lot machines and surveillance cameras, the town uses an underground fiber optic infrastructure.

The fiber network is used for Vail’s security video surveillance system, and also delivers advanced public Wi-Fi, high-speed free internet on a segmented, stand alone system that is separated from the network used for security and other municipal operations.

Vail (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
Vail (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

The town hosts major events, like the Go Pro Games, the Backcountry Ski Tour, the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championship and Women’s Ski Fest.

With social events, concerts and other activities taking place simultaneously in multiple locations, maintaining network and wireless connectivity and also communication between first responders, volunteers, town officials and security personnel became essential to maintain a safe environment.

In 2015, the town of Vail hosted the International Ski Federation’s World Alpine Championships, which draws some of the best ski racing talent in the world.

It was a three-week long event that required the town and resorts to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on maintaining security for the competition.

For the event, the town of Vail installed a temporary wireless, millimeter wave infrastructure that supported the addition of HD video surveillance cameras, a command center with a video wall, an integration between the town’s video management system and the FBI’s system and support for the heavy traffic on the town’s public Wi-Fi network when needed.

(Siklu – Connecting Buildings – Connecting MDU’s – Hybrid Fiber Wireless Courtesy of Siklu and YouTube)

The event drew an estimated 200,000 spectators, athletes from 70 nations, an onsite media and broadcast entourage of approximately 1,500 and a worldwide television audience of an estimated 1 billion.

The temporary video surveillance system allowed local security and FBI operators to monitor dwell and linger data at events, in addition to monitoring suspicious behavior and managing street traffic flow.

The town felt the event went well and was impressed by the temporary surveillance solution. After the event ended, the town of Vail sought to install a permanent and more powerful version of the Wi-Fi/millimeter wave infrastructure used for the World Alpine Championships, to meet the town’s video surveillance, event, cellular and public Wi-Fi needs.

Extending the Fiber Footprint

For the permanent solution, the footprint of the municipal fiber network needed to be extended in order to provide robust connectivity for large events, for both the public Wi-Fi network and for the town’s video surveillance network.

The rugged terrain of many of the event locations ruled out the possibility of laying fiber in those areas, so the new system would need to be wireless.

The town had also been experiencing interruptions of service from time to time.

These interruptions, which were likely caused by the video surveillance network’s heavy consumption of data, had been impeding the essential 24/7 operation of the video surveillance network, affecting security communications and ultimately compromising site monitoring.

During the World Championship event, the town had experienced some issues with network connectivity, particularly at connection points in the network, an issue that needed to be addressed with the new infrastructure as well.

To accommodate large events like the Alpine World Championship, the town of Vail wanted to upgrade its analog surveillance cameras to high-definition megapixel IP-based cameras.

The town planned to add more than 100 HD video surveillance cameras to the permanent video surveillance system to replace its analog cameras and wanted an underlying infrastructure capable of supporting the town’s other connectivity needs, which included cellular backhaul.

(A stunning glimpse of the first Vail Snow of the 2016-17 season on October 6. Captured by Andrew Taylor. Courtesy of Vail and YouTube)

For most events in Vail, it’s not uncommon for 20,000 to 30,000 spectators gather in a two-square mile area to access Internet and cellular networks.

Because the town’s cellular network cannot handle such density of use, the town offloads some of its cellular activity to Wi-Fi, which also uses significant amounts of bandwidth and affects overall connectivity.

The town of Vail turned to their longtime wireless and systems integration partner Aspen Wireless Technologies for help with a permanent solution.

Aspen Wireless has been the town’s telecommunications partner since 2005 and also was responsible for developing the temporary infrastructure for Vail for the World Alpine Championships.

Jim Selby, President of Aspen Wireless (LinkedIn)
Jim Selby, President of Aspen Wireless (LinkedIn)

The town worked with Aspen Wireless to determine how best to provide the fiber-like wireless connectivity and reliability for big events, while also considering the security of the solution itself, as well as terrain and environmental aesthetics, an element important to Vail residents, town officials and visitors.

“Aspen Wireless has been working with the town of Vail for the last 11 years, so we understood the complexity of the overall project,” said Jim Selby, President of Aspen Wireless.

“Our goal was to meet the town’s connectivity and capacity needs, while also designing a solution that prepares Vail for the future.”

Millimeter Wave: Low Latency, Robust Throughput, High Reliability

Aspen Wireless helped the town of Vail chose the world’s best selling millimeter wave radios, Siklu Communication’s powerful EH-600T radios to deliver the fiber-like wireless connectivity and reliability the town needed for its permanent video surveillance network and other networks.

Siklu Communications’ EH-600T
Siklu Communications’ EH-600T

Aspen Wireless developed an infrastructure that uses Siklu radios to transmit information between the wireless access points provided by Ruckus Wireless, which function as access points for the video surveillance network.

The town also added a new, IP-based video management system, three large-capacity network video recorders and 140 new high-resolution cameras.

One of the prime reasons that Siklu’s millimeter wave radios were chosen as an essential part of the town’s new video surveillance system and underlying infrastructure is that they operate on 60-80GHz frequencies, which is a frequency band much higher than the sub-6GHZ frequency microwave bands used by most wireless technology and Wi-Fi networks.

The lower bands used by most wireless technology are often congested by traffic and heavy use, while millimeter wave bands are interference-free and typically uncongested.

This lack of congestion means the video surveillance system’s connectivity is continuous and highly reliable.

Communications that use millimeter wave bands are inherently faster due to their higher frequency, which means the town’s Siklu radios transmit information within the video surveillance system much faster than the town’s former microwave band-based surveillance system.

This speed translates into ultra low latency for Vail’s HD IP video cameras, which means the town’s security team can accurately and quickly monitor suspicious activity, particularly at large events that require active video surveillance.

Ron Braden, IT Director for the Town of Vail
Ron Braden, IT Director for the Town of Vail (LinkedIn)

“The Siklu radios we’re using move data – including transmissions between our high-definition cameras, the video management system and high-capacity network video recorders – at a rate 200 to 500 times faster than our previous system,” said Ron Braden, IT Director for the Town of Vail.

“The difference is staggering. We’ve gone from 20 to 30 megabits per second wireless backhaul capacity to one or more gigabits per second largely because of Siklu’s radios.”

The town moved its video surveillance system to the millimeter wave band frequencies employed by Siklu’s radios, which also eases congestion and bandwidth usage on the lower frequency bands used by the public Wi-Fi network, another goal for the project.

In addition, Siklu’s radios are discrete, which was an initial concern for town officials.

“We wanted an unobtrusive solution that allows us to maintain public safety, while also providing a welcoming, friendly environment,” said Braden.

“Siklu’s radios are compact in size, so our video surveillance system doesn’t seem intrusive – it lets people enjoy their time in Vail.”

Siklu’s EtherHaul-600T are palm-sized radios that provide Vail with high capacity wireless point-to-point Ethernet connectivity to video surveillance cameras and other devices deployed on lamp posts, poles, traffic lights, buildings and rooftops.

The radios are small in size, with the EH-600T street-level radio measuring 5.9” x 6.1” x 3.54”, meeting the town of Vail’s aesthetic needs.

In addition, the town of Vail had sought an easy to deploy solution to avoid disruption of everyday life in Vail.

Aspen Wireless was able to deploy the Siklu radios and other network and surveillance hardware quickly, in a matter of only days. The radios’ support of service activation via the town’s network operations center also made the installation fast and easy.

Today, Vail uses its nimble and robust video surveillance system courtesy of Siklu for everyday public safety, large events and everything in between.

The city’s traffic and code enforcement officers use the system daily for investigating crimes and events, as do law enforcement officials and other city departments responsible for public safety.

When large-scale events are hosted in Vail, security operators use the infrastructure provided by Siklu to monitor crowd movements, car traffic and suspicious activity, with the knowledge that the video surveillance network is reliable and fast.

Vail can also use the data from the video surveillance system to plan for and forecast future events by examining the details captured in video surveillance from previous events.

Vail (Image Credit: Vail .gov)

Looking Ahead

Siklu’s radios have helped transform Vail’s previous analog surveillance system into an IP-based, wireless smart city HD video surveillance system whose speed and capacity improve the town’s live surveillance and investigational operations significantly.

Security operators can quickly access and review high-definition video footage when searching for an event or activity or when monitoring events.

“Our municipal employees use the network extensively to access our security cameras and parking system, and our inspectors out in the field and police personnel often upload videos, which is done easily and quickly with the network’s high speed and generous data capacity,” said Braden.

In looking toward the future, the town of Vail can add new Siklu millimeter wave radios as needed with minimal downtime and installation time.

In fact, shortly after the initial project deployment, an optic fiber was damaged in an accident in Vail and the town turned again to Aspen Wireless for help.

Alex Doorduyn, Siklu’s Director of Business Development and Sales
Alex Doorduyn

Aspen Wireless suggested deploying a Siklu EH-600T link, which the integrator kept in case of emergencies, to resolve network and video surveillance communications.

Within a few hours, Aspen Wireless deployed the Siklu radio and communication was restored.

By Alex Doorduyn, Siklu’s Director of Business Development and Sales

Siklu delivers multi-gigabit fiber-like wireless connectivity in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Operating in the 60, 70/80 GHz bands, its millimeter wave solutions are used by leading integrators, service providers, municipal authorities and mobile network operators worldwide.

Thousands of carrier grade units delivering interference-free performance have been successfully deployed world-wide.

Siklu logo

Easily installed on street-fixtures or rooftops, the price-competitive radios have proved to be ideal for networks requiring fast and simple deployment of secure, fiber-like and future-proof connectivity.