CIO's Blog

Stephen Frazier, Western Illinois University

Conquering WIU’s Wireless Divide

There has been a wireless divide on the Macomb campus at Western Illinois University.  Students living on campus are either on one side of that divide or the other.  That’s all going to change later this summer when wireless access becomes ubiquitous in all of the residence halls.

Wireless access has been available in the residence hall rooms on the south side of the campus.  Caroline Grote Hall was one of the first residence halls to be provided with wireless access in the Fall 2007.  When the Corbin and Olsen Halls remodel was completed in August 2012, the wireless system was upgraded in them.  Westbrook (formerly the International House) has also had wireless since August 2012.  Lincoln and Washington were the most recent ones, which were brought online in the fall of 2013.

The north side of campus has not enjoyed the same wireless coverage, however.  Bayliss, Henninger, Tanner and Thompson have only had coverage in the common areas on the 1st and 2nd floors (Tanner’s 3rd floor common area also had wireless) since August 2007.   The University is financing $450,000, approximately half the cost of the project, which will be paid back over three years using ResNet fees to provide Tanner, Thompson, Bayliss and Henninger with 802.11n or 802.11.ac wireless coverage in all of the student rooms.

Contract work is scheduled to begin on May 12 in Thompson Hall to run conduits, molding, installation of ceiling brackets and wireless access points.  The anticipated completion date of the work in all of the residence halls on the north side of campus is two weeks before classes start for the fall semester.  The contractor and University Technology will be working on it throughout the entire summer. The majority of work should be done by the time the general student population moves in.  However, there may be punch list items that still need to be completed when students arrive, depending on what unforeseen difficulties the contractor encounters.

ResNet’s Internet egress also requires an equipment upgrade.  This upgrade will allow ResNet’s wired network and wireless network to take full advantage of our connection to our Internet Service Provider (ISP).  Bandwidth improvements will be needed to handle the increased network traffic from student-owned mobile devices in residence halls on both the north and south side of campus. The good news is that this ResNet egress upgrade has been approved and it is ready to go.

Bandwidth was increased from 256 Mbps to 620 Mbps (a 2 fold increase) earlier this year.  With the installation of new network equipment later this summer, it will increase to 2 Gbps in the fall.  That’s approximately eight times as fast as it was at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester.  That type of increase will be welcomed by both mobile and non-mobile ResNet users… and I think they will be very excited!

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Author: Stephen Frazier, CIO

Stephen Frazier heads up the University Technology department as the CIO at Western Illinois University. He can be reached at sl-frazier@wiu.edu.

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