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Research gets smarter in Shenzhen University Town with Wi-Fi 6

Apr 24, 2020 By Zhang Mo

Founded in 2001, UTSZ is China's only cluster of research universities for full-time graduate students. Covering 1.54 square kilometers, UTSZ comprises three leading schools: Tsinghua Shenzhen International Graduate School, Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School, and Harbin Institute of Technology (Shenzhen). In total, they cater for 12,911 full-time students.

“UTSZ has the most doctoral, master's, and international students in Shenzhen," says Director of UTSZ's Management Office, Liu Ying. Currently, 1,639 doctoral students and 8,581 master's students study in the town, alongside 2,691 undergraduate students. "In the past decade, over 80 percent of graduate students in Shenzhen have attended one of the three UTSZ schools,” he says. 

UTSZ was established to produce high-end talent and has set robust benchmarks in terms of schooling, research, and innovation. Fifty percent of its graduates since 2010  have stayed in Shenzhen, testifying to the city’s position as a hub of innovation. 

What’s unique about this university town?

University towns are generally much of a muchness. What’s sets UTSZ apart is connectedness – both operationally and technologically. While the three graduate schools have their own features, they’re also a family. So, what connects them? The answer is UTSZ’s Management Office (MO), which was set up in 2003 to directly administrate the town.

The MO acts as a management platform, one that’s encouraged resource-sharing from the get-go: the three institutions share the University Town Library and the MO provides them with shared research resources, including scientific journals and an information network infrastructure. 

Liu believes that a first-class platform is vital for providing services for first-class teachers and students, "We needed a leading platform to provide better services for the university town's three schools," he says.

Why Wi-Fi 6?

Unlike other university towns, UTSZ already has a number of inherent advantages in terms of network construction. These include a shared campus infrastructure network and a position as a masternode for Shenzhen’s IPv6 network, which connects to all colleges and universities in the city.

UTSZ formed a partnership with Peng Cheng Laboratory (PLC) to build experimental infrastructure for a network designed to include a regional backbone node for Shenzhen plus PLC's convergence node for network information resources. The aim was to cover the Greater Bay Area and construct an AI campus and an education cloud.

And Wi-Fi is crucial for the campus network. To bolster existing 4G and upcoming 5G services, UTSZ built China's first Wi-Fi 6 standard wireless campus network. There were three main reasons for this choice:

  • Students tend to be price-sensitive and both 4G and 5G are more expensive for them than a Wi-Fi 6 campus network.
  • University campuses deploy many high-bandwidth applications, so high-bandwidth services with tens of thousands users would place tremendous strain on operator networks.
  • A high-speed, stable wireless network is essential for research involving lab-intensive scientific research with specialist equipment.

For an application like 4K full-telepresence in a wireless office, Wi-Fi 5 can support 8 to 12 Mbps of bandwidth per device, if we assume 100 devices. The 30 Mbps of bandwidth enabled by Wi-Fi 6 represents a leapfrog upgrade in experience from SD to HD and makes interactive applications such as VR and AR immersive teaching possible.

According to Liu, "Huawei's Wi-Fi 6 products are both advanced and mature. So, we hoped to use this technology to solve specific problems and construct a first-class smart campus." UTSZ aims to attract 31,000 students by 2025, so using Wi-Fi 6 is a wise decision given the higher-concurrency and larger-bandwidth application scenarios it supports.

Read more: Wi-Fi 6 is a game-changer for service providers

Three challenges to overcome

Three major challenges faced smart campus construction at UTSZ:

Stable connections: Both fixed and mobile devices providing IoT services require a stable, permanent connection that incurs no data loss.

High bandwidth: Higher north-south service bandwidth is essential for efficient data transmission for cloud services such as cloud UC, which includes 4K conferencing and wireless projection and cloud VR and AR education applications. 

Simple O&M: Traditonal after-the-fact O&M performed manually can take several hours from when a fault or threat occurs to when it’s fixed, greatly impacting those affected by the fault.

As well as speed, a future-oriented network needs smart features based on AI and machine learning, which gives network and service assurance and meets network deployment, O&M, and security requirements.

"Our aim was to build a unified transport network at the infrastructure network level to carry different services on it," says Sun Tao, the Director of UTSZ's Network Center. "We wanted to provide an optimal technical solution that reduced duplicated investment and minimized management complexity."

Huawei’s one-stop management center features core components like the AC controller, CampusInsight, and CIS. These provide customers with network-wide automated deployment, smart network O&M, and active security defense.

Huawei provided an array of products at the infrastructure layer, using centralized management on full-stack network equipment and cloud-based O&M and deployment with efficient policy deployment and rights- and domain-based O&M. It then incubated a large number of applications through an open platform.

Setting a nationwide benchmark

UTSZ’s smart campus has boosted classroom interactions between teachers and students by 40 percent, increased the speed of scientific research simulations by 30 percent, cut O&M personnel requirements by 60 percent, and reduced energy consumption by 30 percent.

As China’s pilot university town, UTSZ has set a benchmark for more closely integrating industry, universities, and research. Its experience, developed through real-world practice – including the pioneering use of a Wi-Fi 6 network, understanding of smart campus construction, and its partnership with Huawei to build the platforms – will form a model that other university towns and college campuses will be able to learn from. 

Click the link to find out more about Huawei’s Wi-Fi 6 products