OPW delivers quality services over a quality network

With around 2,000 employees, the Office of Public Works is one of Ireland’s largest agencies. Its decentralisation has been significantly enabled by a new national voice and data network: this is a high-speed infrastructure which cleverly leverages a mix of wireless and wireline technologies to deliver best-fit connectivity across Ireland, from the Blaskets in Dingle to Dublin’s Botanic Gardens.

Today the OPW has successfully completed the transition to a new state-of-the-art headquarters building in Trim, County Meath. From here it manages a range of services including its large architectural practice and property portfolio management, waterways management, heritage services and National Procurement Service. But relocating its headquarters from Stephen’s Green in Dublin involved the complex task of rebuilding its IT infrastructure to make Meath its new communications hub and the new termination point for an upgraded national network connecting 130 sites from all over the country.

OPW sites need continuous access to each other, to the Internet, to the government network, and to IP voice services, making its network a critical enabler of its business. After considering tender responses from a number of operators, OPW awarded its primary 400 Mb per second connection in Trim and the associated 100 Mb per second backup link to different providers; the backup line was also to have the primary function of carrying internal VOIP traffic.

Its chosen provider for that secondary line was AirSpeed Telecom, and the backup facility marked the OPW’s first exposure to the company. It was the beginning of a relationship which has since expanded to include primary network links for remote OPW sites, thanks to the reliability and flexibility of the AirSpeed service. Initial difficulties with the Trim primary line meant the AirSpeed Telecom backup was unexpectedly pressed into service for an extended live test for all headquarters traffic -- it worked flawlessly.

“We had no problems at all with the backup,” recalls Philip Cogavin, ICT Procurement Manager for the OPW.
“The fact that the AirSpeed backup was working so well with the voice traffic and everything else was impressive.”

The right technology for the right place

The experience galvanised OPW’s opinion of AirSpeed Telecom and it invited the company to tender for a separate contract to connect OPW remote sites into Trim. The OPW has chosen a mix of companies to provide remote connectivity -- Philip says its priority is to select the best-fit provider for each individual site -- and AirSpeed Telecom has been awarded 18 of those sites. The company is now completing its rollout with a mix of licensed wireless, WiMAX and fibre optic technologies at speeds of 2 Mb per second up to 20 Mb per second.

The AirSpeed Telecom sites on the OPW national network span a range of urban, suburban and rural locations, from the Botanic Gardens in Dublin to the Blasket Centre on the Dingle Peninsula. Philip says AirSpeed Telecom's ability to deliver a mix of technologies makes the company a flexible partner.

"We're using WiMAX, licensed wireless and fibre from AirSpeed, and it's good because, if there's no line of sight, that's not a stumbling block," Philip said. "They find a way and they make it work, using whatever technology is most appropriate."

Better bandwidth means better productivity

End-users across the OPW are now benefiting from transformed access speeds -- in some cases moving from 128K ISDN speeds to as much as 10 Mb per second.

"End-users have definitely noticed the improvement, especially for staff using applications like AutoCAD," Philip explained.

Daily overnight data backups, which occasionally are still running at the start of the next business day, now cause no network slowdown for staff. There's also keen demand among staff for the full rollout to be completed, so that inter-office traffic can flow even faster.

"One of our sites is being fed with data from waterways in different areas, and they have a huge amount of live data coming into them," Philip said. "They'd like to see that data put onto a website -- improved bandwidth can make that possible."

As users are keen to see the rollout completed, Philip says that the proactive communication from providers like AirSpeed Telecom make it an easier undertaking for his office to maintain visibility and control of this large transformation project.

"We have a very good relationship with AirSpeed, and of the providers we are using, they are the most proactive," he said. "We always find out from them what the status is, rather than us having to call them. They're very good at organisation, at getting people on site, getting results back quickly and dealing with queries. That kind of thing is very important -- if there's an issue anywhere with progress, we need to know who owns that issue, and what's being done."

A consistent national experience for end-users, wherever they are

Today the OPW is on its way to completing a new national voice and data network that will deliver the increased speeds to support whatever initiatives it needs to undertake, no matter how bandwidth-intensive. The agency's mix of technologies -- fibre, WiMAX, point-to-point and point to multipoint licensed wireless -- are combining effectively on a single unified network which is becoming one of the best examples of how to support a large decentralised organisation.

"Decentralisation gave us the unique opportunity to rebuild our network, so we wanted to take advantage of the improved speeds and the improved choice now available for telecoms," Philip said. "When we first set up our network, there was very little choice, and we simply had to take what was speeds were available. As an organisation, we said, let's do something better. That's what we've done, and our users are seeing the benefit."