Municipal Wireless Network Case Study - City of Bilbao

Aruba solutions prioritise seamless mobility and analytics throughout the city of Bilbao

BilbaoTIK is a public enterprise that supports the technological needs of Bilbao City Council and has operated exclusively for the council for the last 30 years. Through this public enterprise, ten years ago the city of Bilbao equipped itself with a powerful fibre optic network. It was then that the city council made a bold commitment to offering free and universal Wi-Fi connectivity in public buildings and in some of the city’s iconic squares and streets. As the years passed, with an ageing Wi-Fi network and a rapid increase in the number of devices connecting to the network, the city council set out to improve the quality of the free Wi-Fi service and also to expand its geographical coverage, while combining the highest security levels with the best user experience for the public.

The added value of the deployed technology

The Aruba solution is integrated into a single tool that provides us with full visibility of all the devices that are connected to the network. Its analytics technology provides us, completely anonymously, with valuable information that enables us to offer a better service to the public. Iñaki Etxebarria, director of BilbaoTIK

Young man uses a laptop computer at a busy train or subway station.

With this in mind, in 2017 the city council invited tenders for the renewal of its network and Aruba was awarded the contract since it was able to combine wireless solutions and the most powerful analytics technology in a single tool. The technology that Aruba deployed allows a larger number of users to be connected to the Bilbao Wi-Fi network and improves the user experience, while generating valuable information, completely anonymously, for the city council, which can now receive real-time data from the Aruba platform on the number of people that are connected and where they are located, inferring the countries they come from by the device language.

The project launched with Aruba as a partner has been among those that have had the biggest impact on the street in the last ten years. Some 1,200 access points providing free, open and universal Wi-Fi were deployed both outdoors and in almost every municipal building and every neighbourhood. Bilbao City Council now delivers a high-quality Wi-Fi service throughout the city, recently reaching a total of over 120,000 devices connected in one day.

Etxebarría explains, “Bilbao is a city of around 345,000 inhabitants; our priority was to offer a high-quality Internet connection to the public. We have achieved this with Aruba technology, and thanks to their analytics solutions we can now extract information, completely anonymously, on the starting point and destination of means of transport and the traffic patterns in the neighbourhoods, enabling us to improve planning in certain areas such as transport and security”.

Ideal solution for various needs

The city council, via BilbaoTIK, chose Aruba to be the provider that, alongside its robust wireless technology, offered the most powerful analytics solution on the market. Ten years ago, the municipal network had 4,000 network points for council employees; now, thanks to Aruba technology, Bilbao has 120,000 devices connected to its network, demonstrating that the IoT is already a reality. This connection capacity did not exist ten years ago. With the technology that Aruba deployed, the city council is able to broadcast three SSIDs throughout the city, one for free Internet access (Bilbao Wi-Fi), one for access to eduroam, the international university roaming service, making Bilbao a de facto global campus where both students and lecturers have an ever-present connection to their university, and finally a network for municipal IoT devices and staff access to internal systems, significantly cutting costs by reducing dependence on external communications systems.

A mobile architecture tailored to Bilbao’s needs

Crowded city square

The Aruba Mobile First architecture that has been deployed is based on 1,000 access points, using the Aruba 325 and 365 APs, as well as a network architecture based on Aruba 7200 Series Mobility Controllers. The project was undertaken in two phases. After a detailed study of the council’s needs, around 500 indoor and 500 outdoor access points were deployed, though, to increase the capacity for connected devices in target areas, high-density models will be added to the deployment in 2018. These access points have been placed in all public buildings, libraries, football grounds, swimming pools and sports centres, district centres, police stations, tourist offices and most of the parks and public spaces throughout the city. They have also been placed in two of the hospitals, and in six of the health centres spread around the city, thanks to a collaborative agreement with the Basque Government’s health service (Osakidetza), and at tram stops through a collaborative agreement with the Basque Government transport operator (ETS).

Secure and centrally managed role-based access

Aruba ClearPass Policy Manager was chosen to manage the corporate network of the city council offices. The solution also meets the needs of mobile municipal staff moving between sites and civil servants connecting their devices outdoors. Aruba AirWave Network Management was the solution chosen to manage wired and wireless infrastructure, enabling these two aspects to be monitored with a single tool – key to delivering the service that the city council needs. In order to produce useful data, the city council chose the Aruba Analytics and Location Engine (ALE), which provides valuable information such as when users connect, where they go, how long they remain connected, which points of the city are most visited, which are revisited and how often.

Creating synergies for the benefit of the public

Crowd of people in a busy plaza.

Bilbao City Council showcased a more efficient and effective public administration by reaching agreements with other authorities that operate in the city to federate the network. For instance, an agreement with the Basque Health Service has made it possible to reuse the existing Wi-Fi equipment in hospitals and health centres to broadcast the municipal networks there, providing a high-quality service with virtually no added cost. This practice has been extended to the public transport operators in the city, achieving huge technical and financial synergies.

The city council has also developed several mobile applications for interacting with the public and aims to promote their use via the free network. All the information collected is combined completely anonymously with other data sources with the aim of improving public services and offering a better experience both to Bilbao residents and tourists. With the Aruba Mobile First architecture, this interaction between the city council and the public is reaping success.

Cutting-edge technology to offer the best service in the future

Currently, thanks to the technology provided by Aruba, the city of Bilbao has Europe’s biggest Wi-Fi network. A record number of 117,000 connected devices in one day was recently reached, but the city council’s objective for 2018 is to reach 250,000 devices connected in one day. In order to provide the best service to the public in more areas of the city, the council plans to expand network access to some of the busiest parts of the city. The additional locations will count sites such as metro stations, dispensaries and other health centres, public education centres, and deployments indoor and in surrounding areas where events are held, like Miribilla Arena, Pabellón de la Casilla, San Mames, Casa de la Misericordia, Teatro Arriaga, Palacio Euskalduna, Museo Marítimo and also Wi-Fi provided on board the Bilbobus. These deployments will be carried out through organic growth and the council’s own infrastructure, or with collaborative agreements where possible.