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With its Grade 1 listed building and Long Wards still largely unchanged since Sir Christopher Wren designed them in the 17th century, hospital administrators were forbidden from altering the fabric and aesthetics of the historic building by installing new cabling.
The construction of the building also presented a unique set of challenges, according to Joe Aucott, managing director of Ruckus partner Computer Products, which handled the deployment.
“A strong signal was required, as the building is a densely constructed environment comprising walls that are five to six feet thick, wooden beams and hard flooring, which creates an extremely complex RF environment,” said Aucott.
The hospital had previously used a broadband over power line system but the inherent disadvantages of such systems – such as general noise and interference – coupled with an aging electrical system, meant that it was suffering frequent outages, explained Royal Hospital Chelsea ICT manager Isabel Prieto-Cordero.
Prieto-Cordero said Ruckus' system suited the Royal Hospital's requirements with its capability of handling interference, strong signal, and ease to install and manage.
“Installing a robust and reliable network throughout the main building was imperative. The staff and residents are just as dependent on the internet as many other walks of life and we wanted to be able to provide residents and visitors with seamless access to Wi-Fi,” she said.
Computer Products installed 24 Ruckus ZoneFlex 7363 high-performance 802.11n indoor access points – featuring its BeamFlex adaptive antenna technology – in a pyramid formation, managed through Ruckus’ ZoneDirector management platform, which centrally controls and monitors service delivery and performance.
Ruckus claims its system can be deployed and operated by anybody, enabling any organisation with limited IT staff to create a robust and secure multimedia WLAN in minutes.
Prieto-Cordero said the deployment – which took barely two days – had already vastly improved the online lives of the Chelsea Pensioners, giving them consistent and reliable internet access across tablets, smartphones and laptops, as well as smart TV services for the first time.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was established in the 1680s by Charles II as a retreat for armed forces veterans, with the first residents including men injured at the Battle of Sedgmoor, one of the last pitched battles fought in England.
It is now home to around 300 Chelsea Pensioners, whose bright red uniforms are a distinctive sight around the area.
Candidates for residency must have served either as a warrant officer or non-commissioned officer in the British Army, although commissioned officers are admitted if they served 12 years in the ranks, over 65 years of age, receiving an Army Service Pension or War Disability Pension which must be surrendered on entry, and free of financial obligations to support a spouse or family.
Until recently the hospital only accepted male veterans, with the first female resident, Dorothy Hughes – who served on an anti-aircraft battery in World War II and went on to research and develop countermeasures used against German V2 rockets – admitted in 2009.