Sep 04 2014

University Invests in Lightning-Fast Campus Wi-Fi

The University of Alabama at Birmingham recently propped up a 250Mbps network across campus.

When students leave their parents' home and move in to campus residence halls, they come loaded with certain expectations — among them, that they’ll have wireless access for all their devices. But a solid Wi-Fi connection isn't always a guarantee.

Now, students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have something to look forward to — a blisteringly fast, 250-megabit-per-second connection. That’s more than 24 times the U.S. average throughput of 10.5Mbps.

The campus’s 802.11ac wireless network upgrade was completed in July, specifically to expand connectivity in classrooms, according to Kerry Bean, communications director for IT at UAB.

"UAB IT implemented 802.11ac wireless coverage throughout the academic side of campus, installing the Aruba AP-225 in a greater density, with many of the classrooms having at least one access point," Bean says.

The university also rolled out two new wireless network service set identifiers across the Birmingham campus. One is a secure network and another serves as the home for Aruba's QuickConnect, allowing for rapid configuration of devices on the campus's secure system, guest access to Wi-Fi and accommodation of non-WPA2 capable devices.

Solid Wi-Fi on campus has become a selling point for universities. An article in the August issue of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education addresses the issue directly:

In 2012, the University of Montana surveyed students who had been accepted into the college but chose not to enroll. What they found surprised them: The top reason students cited for not attending was the lack of wireless access in the university's residence halls. At the time, only 10 percent of the rooms in the university's 13 residence halls had wireless. "For years, the thought was that the network ports in their rooms — having one port per bed — was a good connection, that we shouldn't worry that there's no wireless there. But that was no longer a reasonable assumption," CIO Matt Riley says.

Read how the university's IT team overcame this challenge with a fresh residential network upgrade.

READ MORE: Weighing 802.11ac and 802.11n? This EdTech article asks campus IT leaders to compare today’s wireless standards.

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