|New Wi-Fi System Covers Entire Campus, and Does iPhone!
August 21, 2007
Contact: Rachel Andoga
This fall Davidson students will be enjoying a new state-of-the-art campus-wide wireless (Wi-Fi) network. A high-speed, high-performance wireless network installed this summer provides mobile broadband access to students, faculty, and staff throughout most of the buildings and 100 acre main grounds of the campus.
The wireless network will support not only personal computers, but also new generation Wi-Fi enabled devices like the Apple iPhone other so-called “SmartPhones” that are gaining popularity. “I don’t think that the future of computing is sitting behind a desk,” said Mur Muchane, executive director of Information Technology Services (ITS). “It’s in devices like the iPhone, where you can have it on you at all times. As a campus, we have to be prepared for that new world. Students will have the technology, and we didn’t want to lag behind student expectations. We wanted to support the broad range of applications that members of the college family want no matter where they are on campus.”
Last fall, ITS began discussions with campus technology advisory committees about the benefits of a comprehensive campus-wide approach to wireless connectivity. A complete study and survey followed to determine the best way to deploy a campus-wide wireless network. “In years gone by, our approach had been building-by-building,” said Muchane. “As each building was renovated, that was our opportunity to install wireless. But after a couple years, we realized that we were ending up with a mix of technologies that was challenging to manage.”
For instance, he said, with the previous wireless system, more than forty access points were necessary to maintain wireless service in the entirety of Chambers Building.
“We researched all our Wi-Fi options extensively and selected a cost-effective and high-performance solution from BelAir Networks,” said Jeff Bowman, ITS wireless manager. Work began in early summer and was finished in early August. Thirty-two wireless transmitters are now mounted unobtrusively across the core campus.
With recent reports from Duke University that initially attributed problems on its wireless network to the iPhone, ITS tested Davidson’s wireless network extensively with the iPhone and found no problems. Muchane noted that the system is financially sound, as well as technically sound. “We’ve reduced the capital and operational costs associated with traditional access point deployments,” he said.
Students, faculty, and staff will benefit from the wireless network’s ubiquitous coverage, increased capacity, and a broader range of services. In addition to supporting teaching and learning, it will in the future support a variety of administrative functions such as monitoring of equipment, controlling lighting systems, and filing work orders from anywhere on campus.
ITS has provided resources online to aid students in setting up their iPhones on campus, with information on how to access their Davidson e-mail accounts.
By any measure, Davidson was already well-wired. A modern fiber-optic network interconnects most college buildings with network ports in every office and classroom, and every “pillow” in the residence halls.
This new wireless initiative puts Davidson in rare company, if not in a category of its own. A September 2005 survey conducted by the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges (CLAC) revealed that only a few institutions had plans to deploy campus-wide wireless access. Many colleges have settled for Wi-Fi architecture requiring access points on each floor for indoor coverage, and outdoor coverage only in non-contiguous hotspots. Davidson’s new network has the same state-of-the-art technology used in the citywide networks in Minneapolis, London, and Toronto.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by “U.S. News and World Report” magazine.
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Posted By: Bill Giduz