Long hailed for the wired network infrastructure on its campuses, Indiana University has made a new name for itself by providing expansive wireless network access to virtually every corner of the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses. IU’s University Information Technology Services (UITS) has completed an initiative to provide the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses with complete, secure Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity).
“College students have become more sophisticated and technologically savvy and are today far more mobile in their use of technology,” said Brian Voss, associate vice president for telecommunications at IU’s Office of the Vice President for Information Technology. “Laptop computers and PDAs are quickly becoming standard, everyday tools for students, faculty and staff. To be of most use, these devices need to be connected to the Internet, hence the importance of broad wireless access.”
Some 800 wireless access points were installed during the past year at the two campuses. The initial implementation called for providing wireless coverage to all student, faculty and staff areas with focus on academic activities. These areas include classrooms, academic offices, conference rooms, and faculty and staff areas. Other locations include several indoor and outdoor communal areas and residence halls, auditoriums and athletic facilities. Steps will be taken in the months ahead to further broaden and “fine-tune” coverage.
The new wireless infrastructure does not replace the wired one. Rather, it is an expansion of infrastructure to facilitate more mobile forms of interface. Students, faculty and staff who have laptops or PDAs with 802.11b wireless cards are able to send and receive E-mail, register for classes, download and upload assignments, check grades and surf the Web without need for a data jack connection.
National trends show a move to mobile Internet devices, which are seen to enrich the value that information technology to academic endeavor.
“IU has had Wi-Fi for a number of years, but it was a grassroots effort by a few departments that deployed their own networks” said Michael Guinn, who spearheaded the project for UITS. The Wi-Fi network is secured through a virtual private network, which provides solid encryption for the wireless link and also requires authentication with an IU Network ID before use of the network is allowed. This infrastructure also secures remote access to IU network resources for users who are increasingly accessing these resources via high-speed vendor networks utilizing DSL and cable modem technology. The technology, acquired from Cisco Systems Inc., allows for multi-purpose use—further streamlining technical installations and support.
Through the implementation of Vivato antennas—some of which have already been used to provide Wi-Fi to Memorial Stadium in Bloomington—UITS will continue to expand network access on the two campuses. Vivato antennas are capable of covering large outdoor areas, up to a square mile, and can penetrate large buildings because of their high-gain directional antennas. Future locations slated for Wi-Fi access include IUPUI’s University Place Conference Center and Hotel.
In addition to providing Wi-Fi coverage to the campus communities, IU also has a partnership with Kiva Networking in Bloomington. IU Wi-Fi users have access to the IU network via Kiva Anywhere! Wi-Fi locations in Bloomington and Monroe County.
“The presence of a quality and pervasive Wi-Fi network will further encourage students to integrate mobile technology into their academic lives and boost the productivity and availability of faculty and staff,” said Voss.