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August 4, 2006
Even as North America and Europe bake under a record-setting heat wave, it's skiing and snowboarding season in Australia. And guests at Mt. Buller, three hours from Melbourne, can now surf while they ski or ride: Snow Sports Interactive, an Australian provider of information technology to the snowsports industry, has installed a WiFi network that covers the resort's entire 650 acres, including the 80 kilometers of groomed runs.
While many resorts have installed WiFi in villages at the base of their mountains, the Mt. Buller system, based on equipment from Strix Systems Inc. , is being touted as the first comprehensive wireless network at a ski resort.
"It's true to our knowledge that this is the first that covers the entire resort border-to-border," says Nan Chen, vice president of marketing and product management at Strix, "including slopes, slope operations, buildings for guests, buildings for employees –- in other words, the entire mountain."
Snow Sports Interactive's "whispar" wireless system uses Strix Access/One products, which were included in the recent test of wireless mesh networking equipment sponsored by Light Reading and performed by the testing lab Iometrix Inc. The tests showed that a Strix Access/One Outdoor Wireless System 2400 hardened outdoor mesh node maintained a constant maximum throughput of 35 Mbit/s over up to four hops. (See Wireless Mesh Passes Test.)
Strix’s multi-radio, multi-channel, multi-RF solution is particularly well-suited for providing restricted line-of-sight coverage in the harsh alpine environment at Mt. Buller, says Steve Kenny, Managing Director of SnowSports Interactive.
“Strix’s OWS and [Indoor Wireless System] solutions were easy to deploy quickly, and we can upgrade the system ourselves seamlessly as Strix introduces new products and capabilities," Kenny said in a statement. "Strix also provides superior throughput over multiple hops, which is essential in a ski-resort terrain where wiring nodes for backhaul is nearly impossible."
"Near-zero multi-hop throughput and latency degradation are particularly important" at a ski resort, adds Chen, "as it was just impractical to have a wired connection for every two or hops like most one- or two-radio wireless mesh equipment requires."
For those who already dread sitting next to a skier or rider jabbering away on their cell phone, the advent of mountain-wide WiFi may not sound like a brilliant idea; Mt. Buller officials, however, expect the system to be used mostly for checking email during a ski day, GPS-based trail navigation, or for laptop work at the base of the mountain.
Strix, meanwhile, sees ski resorts as a small but lucrative element of the outdoor/mobile enterprise market, which includes airports, resorts, trains, ports, manufacturing, distribution centers, and so on.
Just watch the trail ahead, and not your BlackBerry screen.
— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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