SABEN boosts TVET college connectivity on FortiGate from NEC XON

26 May, 2022
Anthony Laing, GM of Networking at NEC XON

South African Broadband Education Networks (SABEN) has increased bandwidth for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, many up from 10Mbps, to 200Mbps 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). It intends connecting the remaining campuses by year’s end.

“High-speed Internet connectivity is critical for teaching and learning,” says Helga Watkin Project Lead at SABEN. “The rollout has enabled the colleges to get more bandwidth and, in some cases, save thousands of rands each month.”

“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 says. “Desperate for an immediate connectivity solution, some colleges independently approached commercial connectivity service providers. They were charged well in excess of what it costs for SABEN to meet their current and future needs. Those shifting to the SA NREN solution are the ones that see the greatest savings.”

SABEN accessed grant funds from the National Skills Fund via the Department of Higher Education and Training to provide the broadband connections and campus Wi-Fi-based Internet access backhauled via the SA NREN operated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It also provides ongoing maintenance and support services to the TVET colleges in some of the remotest parts of South Africa. It provides additional services, such as learning management systems, voice over IP (VoIP), and video conferencing.

TVET colleges only pay a monthly connectivity fee that is much lower than they can access commercially.

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 cyber security threats.

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,” says Anthony Laing, GM of Networking at NEC XON. “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 200Mbps lines connecting their campuses, they have improved access to learning. 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,” says Watkin. “That helps learning development envisioned by the presidency to support socio-economic growth. That’s our ultimate goal.”

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