Wireless Access

Posted on: March 2, 2018

This week I wanted to share a bit about what it takes to make wireless communications work on the 40 acres and some work we are executing to keep it tuned up.  Think about it:  across the campus, we can instantly connect to a variety of networks, either local or out to the entire world.

Today, it takes over 8,200 Wireless Access Points (WAPs) to connect student, faculty, and staff wireless devices to the Internet, and that number just keeps growing.  Like most information technology, those WAPs begin to fail, become unsupportable, and need to be replaced. ITS Networking and Telecommunications just completed replacing 1,600 of those WAPs that ranged from six to nine years old. The new WAPs are more reliable and perform 200% faster! That’s quite a boost.  

The effort began in 2015 when Networking announced the older WAPs’ end of life, giving units time to budget for the replacements. Communications and outreach efforts included messages to Tech Service Contacts, Building Network Report Card updates, and numerous presentations.  It was a great adventure in campus coordination and cooperation that took off in earnest in the summer when the equipment actually arrived.

There is a bit more to it than climbing a ladder and making an installation. Replacing the WAPs required careful organization and planning. The new WAPs consume a bit more electricity, so some older network switches required an upgrade at the same time that the WAPs were replaced.  Cabling and Construction, which physically installs and tests the WAPs, must replace network switches depending on building construction, WAP model, and coverage objectives. All 1,600 locations had to be surveyed to determine if changes were needed for the new models.

The effort to keep the WAPs up to date is unending.  We completed this phase just in time… because just as models 1142 and 3500 were replaced, it is time to start replacement for the next 1,000 WAPs (model 3600).

Thanks to all of Networking and Telecommunications for their “Sisyphean” efforts.  A lot of you worked on this the last two years, and I greatly appreciate it.  Special thanks go to Sean Lynch, David Robertson, Matthew Berman, Daniel Cantu, Zakry Kinnison, Julius Montgomery, James Pruett, Conrad Sanchez, Kurt Simmons, Brett Wilson, Raymond Wilson, Jeff Cannon, Terry Joy, and AJ Martinez.