This week as millions of Muslims make their pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj, they will not only have access to the ancient Kaaba, ZamZam Well, and plains of Mount Arafat, they will also have access to Wi-Fi.
Thanks to Aptilo Networks and Tropos Networks, after the estimated three million pilgrims walk seven times counter-clockwise around the Kaaba and kiss (or simply point at) the sacred Black Stone, they can then MapQuest directions to Muzdalifah and perhaps IM a friend or give them a call using VoWi-Fi, so they can meet up and gather the pebbles they will need to perform the ritual of Stoning the Devil at Mina. Pilgrims can also access the streaming video at the official Ministry of Hajj web site, which sagely warns (in English), “Be peaceful, orderly, and kind. No crushing.”
Aptilo is working with Bayanat Al-Oula to manage the temporary deployment of the Tropos MetroMesh system (consisting of roughly 70 APs) for the metro Wi-Fi network deployed in the City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The network took roughly two months to put in place, but will be disassembled sometime after the pilgrims shave their heads, perform an animal sacrifice, and celebrate the four day global festival of Eid ul-Adha.
This is the first year that the Hajj, a pilgrimage required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it at least once in their lifetimes, is supported by free broadband Wi-Fi. In order to use the service, visitors simply have to register.
Aptilo’s solution is unusual—not only because it is being employed at such an ancient and sacred religious ritual—but because it can be deployed so rapidly.
The Aptilo Service Management Platform is operated off-site, from one of Aptilo’s Network Operations Centers (NOCs), while the Aptilo Access Controller is physically on-site to oversee access- and QoS control. The controller works together with the Wi-Fi mesh network from Tropos Networks, the market leader in delivering metro-scale wireless IP mesh networks.
“Millions of pilgrims will make their way to Mecca this year, many of whom bring their wireless devices, laptops etc.,” said Torbjorn Ward, Chief Executive Office and Co-Founder, Aptilo Networks in a press release. “This installment leverages Aptilo’s rapid deployment capabilities in a scalable platform that can adapt to a larger audience of users should the need arise. We are honored to be a part of this event, offering broadband wireless Internet access to the City of Mecca for this important occasion.”
Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet.