A Garden Full of Laptops

The Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (IBS) is no
ordinary business school. After all, it has an enviable profile of promoters
featuring the who’s who in the industry, and an equally impressive faculty
headed by Sumantra Ghoshal from London School of Management. Students here clear
their GMAT to study with their peers at the Wharton School and the Kellogg
School of Management through video-conferencing facilities. They pay a fee of Rs
10 lakh per annum and carry laptops.

Amongst the many firsts to its credit, the most exciting that
IBS can boost of is its wireless LAN network. Students can log in anywhere be it
at the poolside, the gym or by the lake. The aim is that while at work, the
creativity of students should not be curtailed. Students have the option of
working on their projects, sitting in groups anywhere in the campus. All they
need to do is insert the LAN card in their laptops. The first phase was
inaugurated in June and the second in December 2001. The entire campus of 250
acres has wireless access.

How does it work? The wireless LAN involves setting up a
network of access points across the campus to catch signals from the nearest
laptops. Each laptop has two LAN cards. If one of the central switches fails,
the other takes over. This ensures that the network is ‘always on’.

These signals are transmitted at 2.4 MHz, which requires
government clearance. This frequency is free in other countries but comes at a
cost in India. It requires a one time payment of Rs 18,000 and thereafter an
annual fee of Rs 2000-3000 per user. Each access point can support up to 40
users logging in simultaneously. So far, 150 wireless LAN cards have been
distributed amongst users. (120 students and 30 faculty members). The campus
also boasts a fiber-optic cable network, in place and running. It has 1 Mbps
connectivity, which will be scaled to 2 Mbps soon.

Says Vivek Mahajan, Director, Infotech Network who
implemented the project, "The networking project itself was about Rs 8
crore and the WLAN came to about Rs 40 lakh. But what is significant is that
this is the first instance of the use of WLAN in an academic institute."
Industry estimates place the size of the Indian market in the current year at $
0.1 million, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 80 % to be a $10 million
market by 2006.

Infotech Network has already deployed the WLAN network of Dr
Max at different locations in the city. It has also set up the WLAN connectivity
between the Jaypee’s Group’s manufacturing unit in Sahibabad and its office
in Vasant Vihar.

The company is also in the process of setting up a similar
network connecting the various offices of the Shiv Nadar-promoted HCL Group in
Noida. The company has also executed the WLAN project at the Ranbaxy office in
Nehru Place. According to Mahajan, an in-depth study of the city’s topography
has gone into designing the networks for these corporates, especially since
there has to be clear line of sight architecture for the antennas.

Balaka Baruah Aggarwal/CNS
in New Delhi

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