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

As official delegations from eight major Western nations begin Tuesday's G8 Summit on Sea Island in Georgia, their work is being 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, includes officials from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.K.

Networks range from a massive 2,000-mile fiber-optic network in coastal Georgia to a free Wi-Fi network 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.

The phones are based on iDEN push-to-talk technology. 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, according to Cliff Minor, vice president and general manager of Cingular Wireless-Georgia.

When they're not using the phones, aides to the various heads of state will be able to take notes and conduct research using tablet computers from Motion Computing, Office OneNote software from Microsoft and virtual office collaboration software from Groove Networks, according to Tricia Traeger, a spokeswoman for Motion Computing. She said each G8 delegation will be able to use the tablets over a secure peer-to-peer network, using Microsoft OneNote to highlight notes that need more research.

Mike Helfrich, vice president of product strategy at Groove Networks, said his company's virtual-office software is ideal for meetings such as the G8 summit, since it helps with collaboration between geographically dispersed groups, such as the delegation leaders and their staffs. The Groove software also incorporates strong RC4-based encryption, which ensures integrity of communications, Helfrich said.

The $4 million network installed by Atlanta-based BellSouth provides support for delegation members as well as myriad federal, state and local agencies in an 80-mile swath of coastal Georgia from Savannah to Brunswick, according to BellSouth spokesman Kevin Curtin.

Curtin said the fiber-optic network includes self-healing fiber rings at the G8 media center and for the agencies supporting the event. BellSouth also installed its Metro Ethernet service, providing gigabit-speed connections between two or more Ethernet-based LANs.

BellSouth has 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 serves as the primary means of communication for the 20,000-person-strong security force deployed for the event.

BellSouth has equipped the G8 media center, located in the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center, with two DS3 lines (45M bit/sec. each) to provide Internet access. And Savannah Spanish Moss, a community-based free Wi-Fi network that started operation last Wednesday, has installed a Wi-Fi node to cover the outdoor areas of the convention center, 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 center, 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 grew out of a leadership program sponsored by the local chamber of commerce and offers service from three other access points in downtown Savannah, including Reynolds Square and River Street, a thoroughfare that includes major hotels. BellSouth donated a 3Mbit/sec. up and 384Kbit/sec. down DSL circuit for Internet connections to Spanish Moss, Marling said.

The Spanish Moss network uses Model 1230 access points from Cisco Systems, 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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