Bridging the Digital Divide: High-Tech Solutions for Rural Schools

Nyathela Senior Secondary (SS) School in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, recently benefited from the installation of a cutting-edge internet solution aimed at transforming its educational environment. Despite being remote and under-resourced, the school boasts a remarkable 100% pass rate. Located near the South Africa-Lesotho bquotation, Nyathela SS faced significant challenges in accessing reliable internet due to its rural setting and mountainous terrain.

The solution incorporated POYNTING Antennas’ EPNT-2, a Teltonika RUT955 router, and a FibrePoynt HomePoynt to create a WIFI Hotspot. These devices ensured that the administration block could access stable internet, crucial for modern teaching and learning.

The impact of this installation was immediately felt. Teachers and the principal gained access to vital online resources, enhancing their ability to provide a contemporary education aligned with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The positive reception from the school community underscored the transformative potential of this project, with plans underway to expand the network coverage to benefit the entire school. More about the project below:

Introduction

This document looks at a recently installed solution for Nyathela Senior Secondary (SS) School in Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape. It looks at the choice to use the POYNTING Antennas Uni-directional 5G/LTE EPNT-2 CPE, a Teltonika RUT955 and a FibrePoynt HomePoynt. The decision to use this solution and the choice of Mobile Network Operator (MNO) SIM Card to use. The feedback received after installation is reviewed.

Background

Nyathela (SS) School is situated on the bquotation of South Africa and Lesotho, near the Orange river. It is situated in Sterkspruit, a rural town in the Eastern Cape. The town has a lot of service delivery issues, including access to internet. There are little to no ISPs in the area outside the very few and far GSM mobile operators. The school had no source of internet and very bad connection to LTE on any MNO. This is mostly because is built around tall mountains, making it hard for the LTE signal to reach the school.

Problem

 The school needed internet to support teaching and learning. With access to internet a world opportunity opens, ensuring the teachers and learners have access to the latest learning resources. These include online meetings or calls, downloading learning material (written, video or audio), etc. This will also help them catch up to the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The initial phase of the rollout was to give access to the administration block for the teachers and the principal.

Location of Nyathela Senior Secondary School on Google Earth

Doing a site survey, the following was found:

  • No fibre or Wi-Fi was available.
  • No line of sight to LTE tower.
  • High mountains.
  • Low connection to GSM signal.
  • Only MTN network works better.
  • The need to have backup power (or solar solution).
 

1.   Solution

POYNTING antennas offers a variety of antenna solutions for Wi-Fi and cellular connections that can give you great performance when paired with a cellular or Wi-Fi capable router.

Equipment Used:  POYNTING EPNT-2

It’s an enclosure that offers an integration of the world class XPOL-2-5G antenna and a router of choice, capable of using LTE, WiFi and/or GPS.

The ePoynt-2 (EPNT-2) offers a cross-polarised, high gain, uni-directional antenna that provides wideband coverage from 617-960 MHz and 1710-4200 MHz, making it ideal for 4G & 5G implementations. It is ideal for 4×4 or dual 2×2 MIMO applications due to its four cross-polarised cellular antennas, offering two 11 dBi (uni-directional) and two 5 dBi (omni-directional) antennas.

Its enclosure can house any cellular, WiFi or GPS router that falls within the dimensions of 185x145x45

4.1.2.   Teltonika RUT955

It is a compact industrial 4G (LTE) router equipped with 4x Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi, dual SIM, GPS, and more advanced networking solutions.

It supports 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi, and GNSS. There are 2x cellular SMAs, 2x WiFi RP-SMAs and 1x SMA for GNSS. It has endless applications including IOT applications that require digital input and output

Figure 4: EPNT-2 Radiation Patterns for Cellular

Figure 5: Teltonika RUT955 antenna connection

It can be remotely managed through it’s RMS. The dimensions are 110x50x100 mm and has a weight of 287 g, making it a perfect candidate for use with the ePoynt-2.

4.1.3.   FibrePoynt HomePoynt

 It is a high performance, outdoor Wi-Fi access node. It makes use of two 2×2 2.4 GHz radios and 1x 5GHz radio. These radios are paired with directional antennas for the best throughput and coverage.

It has been specifically designed as a last-mile low-cost, high-performance wireless broadband solution for customers in high density, low to middle income consumers.

The antennas offer a mechanical down tilt and up tilt between 0° and ± 15° which can be additionally rotated between 0° to 360° per user’s specific needs.

Coverage is offered at 100×50 m.

Figure 6: FibrePoynt HomePoynt

4.2.      Implemented Solution

The Teltonika RUT955 router and a gigabit POE injector are mounted inside the ePoynt-2 using self-tapping screws. Power is provided to the POE injector through a POE port and supplied to the Teltonika with the DC jack port. The HomePoynt gets internet from the LAN port of the POE.

The 2x cellular, 2x WiFi and 1x GPS antennas are connected from the Teltonika to the ePoynt-2. The Wi-Fi provided by the Teltonika router is left disabled, with only the cellular connection required.

The SIM card used for the cellular connection is MTN as it is the best MNO available in the area. The ePoynt-2 is mounted using its directional cellular antenna to face the direction of the closest MTN tower.

The two 2.4GHz directional antennas are tilted and rotated to face the administration building for the best coverage as required. Each 802.11bgn radio uses a separate 20MHz frequency channel for the best performance and to avoid interference from one another.

Both the ePoynt-2 and the HomePoynt are mounted on the same pole to offer a clean installation. The two are powered from a 4-port gigabit POE injector which receives 24V power from a DC UPS. The UPS gets charged from the 220V AC mains power plug.

5.         Feedback

After installation, the administration block had access to internet enabling all the teachers and the principal to connect their WiFi capable devices.

The solution was well received by the school as they could not contain themselves with excitement at this life changing solution provided to them.

The team involved received the following message from one of the stakeholders involved with the project, talking to Inteto Connect, Frank Vermeulen:

“Thank you very much my brothers you have changed life of the poor black children that can have access to WiFi while they are studying. Proud of you”.

The expansion of the network to cover the whole school is expected soon.

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