UW-Madison working to extend wireless access to entire campus

UW-Madison working to extend wireless access to entire campus

Madison, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison plans to extend its wireless network coverage to cover the entire campus by June 2006, according to the Division of Information Technology.
The university’s 2003 student computing survey showed that 46 percent of students said they were likely to use wireless this year.
In response to the need across the campus, DoIT announced on November 2 that it will be including expanded wireless capactiy in the 21st Century Network, a multimillion-dollar plan to upgrade the university’s network speed and security. DoIT will add 2,200 access points for wireless access in more than 180 dorms, laboratories, and administration buildings.
“We really have a modest capacity on campus,” said Annie Stunden, director of DoIT and chief information officer for UW-Madison. “People all over campus are asking for it in terms of how we handle our coverage.”
The system now includes approximately 70 access points at 20 buildings. Wireless users may have to walk for several minutes until they find a system that works.
Stunden said that an additional push to upgrade came with the release of an Intel survey of the 100 campuses with the most wireless coverage, on which UW-Madison came up 91st. Indiana University and Purdue were at the top of the list at first and second, respectively.
“It does not please UW-Madison to be 91st in anything,” Stunden said.
While the project is extensive, incorporation into the 21st Century Network plan has made it easier, said Brian Rust, DoIT’s spokesperson. The plans for the 21st Century Network are to upgrade the entire campus to a 10-gigabyte backbone speed, reinforce the capacity of the three super nodes powering the network, and connect them with to multimode fiber cables to distribution points located within a hundred yards of every building on campus.
Rust said that since this large project is already taking place, it is relatively simple to add wireless extentions. Each building on campus needs to have its data jacks and wiring upgraded by the UW electric shop. All DoIT needs to do is consult with the building managers so that wireless access points can be added as part of the procedure. By installing these points along with the wired infrastructure, the system can be built now at only a quarter of the cost it would take to set it up normally, Rust said.
“It’s a good opportunity, because building by building [UW-Madison] is being rewired,” Rust said. “It’s cheaper now that we have the technology, [and] appropriate for us to take the next step.”
Building managers and UW staff are anxious to be moved up the list and want the process to be done as soon as possible, he said.
“This is all part of the plan — it just can’t be done as quickly as people would like,” Rust said. “We just need to build it up systematically.”
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Les Chappell is a staff writer for WTN and can be reached at les@wistechnology.com.