Expanding eduroam in the Asia Pacific

By on 6 Aug 2018

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Trainer Vlad Mencl, REANNZ, facilitating the eduroam workshop.

In October 2017, Sabaragamuwa University became the ninth research and education institute in Sri Lanka to join the international roaming service, eduroam.

Eduroam (education roaming) allows any user from participating organizations to get network access at any institution connected to the eduroam network — currently some 12,000 locations in more than 90 economies globally.

“The main advantage of eduroam is the wireless roaming capability when students and staff move between campuses, either locally or overseas,” explains Senevih Hearath, a network engineer at Sri Lanka’s National Education and Research Network (NREN), LEARN, who has overseen and advised on a number of eduroam deployments across Sri Lanka.

LEARN played an important role in developing the proper infrastructure to connect Sabaragamuwa University (as well as the eight Sri Lankan institutes that preceded it) to the eduroam service.

“Through the LEARN TAC [Technical Assistance Center] we train system and network administrators working at our member institutes on how to deploy and maintain new systems, including eduroam,” says Senevih.

“By providing training rather than doing the job for them, they have the capacity not only to troubleshoot, upgrade and expand their network in years to come, but also train others as their team grows.”

The concept of ‘training people to train others’ has been a key component to the successful introduction and expansion of eduroam in Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka — thanks, by in large, to the collaborative efforts of NRENs throughout the Asia Pacific.

The TEIN eduroam project is a collaborative effort bringing the benefits of eduroam to research and education users in Asia Pacific economies with limited or no existing coverage.

Over a period of 18 months (2015-2016), project partners from TEIN*CC, AARNet (Australia), Chungnam National University and KISTI (Korea), REANNZ (New Zealand), and SingAREN (Singapore) worked with local NRENs from the above-mentioned economies to set up the required infrastructure and equip local staff with the expertise to manage and extend eduroam services in their economies.

“The objective was to train the NRENs in these economies to become national operators of eduroam, set up basic eduroam authentication infrastructure, and carry out three education installations within their economy,” says John Batchelder, AARNET, who managed the project.

“It was designed to give them the knowledge to start and then extend it. We did a lot of the work by video (training sessions and video meetings) before we organized for two representatives from each economy to come together in the Philippines to do a two-day, hands-on workshop, which coincided with APAN 41.”

All supporting NRENs helped with developing training materials for the video and hands-on tutorials and participated in the hands-on workshop. The project also helped with procuring and installing the basic infrastructure — including servers to authenticate eduroam requests and wireless access points for testing and establishing coverage — as well as developing administration and monitoring tools to help improve the operation and reporting of the eduroam installations.

“It was good to work with people from so many economies, and totally different backgrounds, on something that benefits everyone”, says John.

“The NRENs are very collaborative anyway but projects like this help to strengthen these relationships. These relationships will continue to grow as the eduroam networks in these economies expand.”

Extending eduroam further

Following the success of the TEIN project’s first assignment, a second project has been established to extend eduroam into Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam. The project will also extend existing coverage in Bhutan, Indonesia, and Nepal.

“This is another fantastic opportunity for NRENs to learn and enable others on how to set up and expand eduroam in their economy,” says John, “as well as strengthen their relationship with neighbouring NRENs in the region.”

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