South African Broadband Education Networks (Saben) has increased bandwidth for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges from 10 Mb/s up to 200 Mb/s using FortiGate devices from NEC XON.
Saben has connected and upgraded 256 of a targeted 283 TVET college campuses, from 48 TVET colleges, to the South African National Research and Education Network (SA NREN) and intends connecting the remaining campuses by the end of the year.
“The rollout has enabled the colleges to get more bandwidth and, in some cases, save thousands of rands each month,” said Saben project lead Helga Watkin, highlighting the importance of high-speed Internet connectivity for teaching and learning.
“Many of the TVET colleges serve students in poorer, marginalised communities who face numerous social and learning challenges. Covid-19 lockdowns accelerated the need for connectivity,” she continued.
TVET colleges only pay a monthly connectivity fee, which is much lower than commercial access.
Saben accessed grant funds from the National Skills Fund, through the Department of Higher Education and Training, to provide the broadband connections and campus WiFi-based Internet access backhauled through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-operated SA NREN.
Saben, which provides ongoing maintenance and support services to the TVET colleges in some of the remotest parts of South Africa, also provides additional services, such as learning management systems, voiceover and video conferencing.
“The FortiGate 100E series appliances that form the basis of the solution provide application-centric, scalable and secure SD-WAN with next-generation firewall capabilities. They are deployed at campus or enterprise branches. A key feature is their system-on-a-chip acceleration that protects against cybersecurity threats,” said Watkin, noting that it was key for Saben to standardise on these appliances throughout the network.
“Standardisation makes it easier to support and applies a level of future-proofing for unconstrained future expansion,” added NEC XON networking GM Anthony Laing.
“The next-generation firewall capabilities reduce complexity and maximise return on the investment with integrated threat protection in one, high-performance appliance. The colleges and the students who benefit, particularly those in rural South Africa, could not normally access this level of infrastructure. Now with 200 Mb/s lines connecting their campuses, they have improved access to learning.”
Watkin explained that the colleges can operate more effectively, there are fewer technology-based learning disruptions, lecturers have adequate bandwidth for their applications and there is wider access to learning and teaching materials.
“The net result is that we are reversing the negative impacts of bandwidth poverty. That helps learning development envisioned by the Presidency to support socioeconomic growth.”