Columbus State Planning Major Wireless Upgrade on Campus

UITS_1COLUMBUS, Ga. —Columbus State University is embarking on a major technology upgrade with plans to spend almost $500,000 to improve wireless service on campus.

The university installed its first wireless devices on main campus in 2005. By 2011, the university had built a network that allowed anyone on main or RiverPark campuses to wirelessly access the Internet.

However, since then, the number of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices accessing the network has skyrocketed, as has the amount of data transfer requested via the network. Over the past three years, CSU has witnessed more than a three-fold increase in the number of wireless devices coming onto campus on a daily basis, university information technology officials said. Online gaming and streaming movie services are just two examples of pastimes popular with students that IT officials cited as tremendously taxing on a wireless network.

“Our goal is to provide the best possible wireless experience for our students, faculty and staff, as well as visitors to campus,” said Abraham George, the university’s chief information officer. “I am so glad we were able to able to make this project work.”

New equipment to boost CSU’s wireless service will start arriving on main campus in July. Officials will start with high-density and academic areas first,  such as Davidson Student Center and Schwob Memorial Library, as well as areas where wireless coverage is lacking. Next, coverage will expand to non-academic areas and less-visited parts of main campus. The third phase will boost wireless coverage in outdoor areas such as Woodruff Park on RiverPark campus, the clock tower and tennis courts. The upgrade will encompass both RiverPark and main campuses .

Work on the project should continue through the end of the calendar year. Funding for new wireless equipment leases and licensing will come from student technology fees and the budget of CSU’s University Information and Technology Services.

To figure out which wireless provider to use, University Information and Technology Services managers invited several companies to test their equipment in various locations across both campuses.

“We were looking for equipment that provided the best coverage, obviously, but we also want a system that’s easy to sign onto, will work seamlessly as users move around campus, is easy to maintain, and can handle fluctuations in demand,” said Casey Hergett, senior manager of infrastructure and network services.

Six different companies brought equipment onto campus for three to six weeks. Officials monitored wireless traffic, usage, demand and service. Ultimately, the university selected Xirrus equipment and will be ordering about 900 access points.

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