3/31/2016 Carrie E. Rampp

New Wireless for F&M

ITS is pleased to share the news with you that we will undertake a complete replacement of our campus wireless infrastructure over the next 24 months.  Here are a few early details and you will hear periodic updates as the work advances. 

Why?

As many of you are aware, the current wireless implementation, designed 6+ years ago, is no longer meeting our campus needs.  Over this 6+ year period we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of wireless devices on campus and an expectation, in keeping with industry trends, that wireless is the default delivery method for internet access far exceeding direct wired connections.  We take great pride in the services we provide, so receiving support and approval from F&M's Board of Trustees for this major investment is great news.  We look forward to addressing the shortcomings in our current wireless service as we make this move over the next 24 months.

What can I expect?

In particular, our new wireless deployment will:

  • More than double the number of access points on campus.  We will move from approximately 700 to more than 1500 with the greatest increases in density happening in the residence halls.
  • Replace all of the wiring in the residence halls as it is now approximately 25 years old and not capable of handling the bandwidth requirements of today’s devices.
  • Provide complete wireless coverage in the 5GHz spectrum, thereby eliminating much of the interference experienced today from wireless printers, microwaves, etc.
  • Deploy contemporary security standards, which will change how you connect to F&M’s wireless.
  • Join EduRoam, making it possible for you to visit any other college or university in the EduRoam network and access their campus wireless using your F&M credentials.  This has become fairly commonplace in Europe and at R1 universities in the U.S. but there is a growing number of smaller colleges deploying wireless solutions that support EduRoam and we want to be amongst them to better support you as you travel for study or research.

What solution are you using?

After a year of review and several on-campus pilot efforts, we have selected Aruba as our new wireless vendor.  Aruba is one of the top providers of wireless infrastructure in college and university settings and is particularly common at institutions that have a large residential population to serve.  Aruba is highly regarded in the industry.

When?

A project of this magnitude will require 24 months to complete.  Given there are some significant wiring requirements in some locations, particularly residence halls, we are taking advantage of other planned facilities work when deciding upon the timing and sequencing.  However, we do anticipate replacing the wireless in approximately half of the residence halls this summer and the other half in summer 2017. We will have some locations live on our new wireless infrastructure as early as May 2016.

Presuming the project proceeds as expected, locations slated for wireless improvement prior to Fall 2016: Ben Franklin North/South/dining area, Buchanan, Schnader, Thomas, College Square, MLS, and Keiper.  We will continue this roll out throughout the 2016-17 academic year in non-residential spaces, when the work can be done with limited interruption.

 At the end of the semester we will share a fuller overview of planned summer initiatives in ITS, but this news seemed too good to wait.

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