University Division of Information Technology to replace Wi-Fi access points

The University is planning upgrades to its overloaded Internet infrastructure strained by the growth of wireless devices on campus in the last four years.
Starting this summer, the University’s Division of Information Technology will begin replacing all Wi-Fi access points in academic and residence halls that connect devices such to the campus wireless system.

The three-year project will boost the reliability of web connectivity across campus, Student Technology Services Manager Ben Fielden said. The access points, which are located on every floor of campus buildings, will be swapped for new, more powerful devices. 

“We’ve known there are some coverage problems for a while now,” Fielden said. “We know we need to improve our wireless system.”

The last replacement was in 2009, promising then to provide more consistent coverage of campus. Fielden said new technology and the “proliferation of devices” has made another upgrade necessary. He declined to provide the cost of the upgrade.

While the replacement timeline is not finalized, he said the office sees the most complaints from the more populated Ivory and Thurston halls, as well as buildings made of denser materials, like Philip Amsterdam hall.

The office rolled out March 21 a software upgrade that gives Windows computers access to the wireless network that began as a pilot for mobile phones in June 2010 and branched out to Apple computers last fall. Fielden said a large number of students, and particularly faculty, use Windows computers and had been asking for GW1X software.

He said he could not provide a breakdown of the cost to launch wireless capabilities for Windows because the figure is not separated from the department’s total expenditures.

Students using GW1X are not required to re-connect every two hours like GWireless, a separate wireless system that will continue to run alongside the new network. 
Multiple devices – including Blackberry phones, Kindles, Xbox 360 game systems – are unable to connect to either of University’s wireless system because manufacturers’ software is not compatible. Fielden does not know if these devices will ever be able to use the campus wireless.

Fielden said the University’s commitment to major projects like a wireless update – which he described as a “huge undertaking” – shows that it is miles ahead of other universities that get “bogged down in what’s not working” in the day-to-day.

“We’re always looking forward to the next big thing,” Fielden said.

He pointed to a national survey by the Association for Information Communication Technology Professionals in Higher Education, which was released last week.

The organization’s first annual “State of ResNet,” or residential network, surveyed about 300 colleges and showed that about 68 percent of colleges allow unlimited access to their networks – a service Fielden said GW is committed to offering.

GW, which did not take part in this survey, was also among 81 percent of students that do not charge for individual bandwidth, and 68 percent of colleges that allow students to connect an unlimited number of devices to the network.

The University does keep track of individual computers’ bandwidth consumption when individual servers appear on the office’s “Top Talker” list – the top 20 data-using servers across the University.

“In our experience, for the students we’ve looked at, something has hijacked their computer or something has gone wrong, like they’ve done file-sharing. It’s always something is wrong with the software, someone is maliciously using their computer to host files, something like that,” Fielden said.

If that student shows on the list three times in one semester, the student must bring their computer to check for problems because “something may have gone horribly wrong” with their computer, Fielden said. He said about 10 students per semester are brought into Student Technology Services for this reason.

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