University of Windsor completes wireless upgrade

The University of Windsor on Tuesday celebrated the completion of a campus-wide wireless network that includes close to 1,000 access points that provide access both indoors and out.

Dubbed the Working Where You Work initiative, the service allows anyone with a University of Windsor user ID and password to access the network, which is based on equipment from Aruba Networks that was installed by Bell Canada. The school has about 5,000 people using the service since the beginning of this year.

Roger Lauzon, the school’s director of IT services, said the project began two years ago as a pilot that involved other vendors. Last spring, he and his team submitted a budget proposal to do the entire campus over a three-year cycle.

“Our senior management asked us to cut that (schedule) down to one year, and our board of governors then asked, ‘How soon can you do it?’” Lauzon said, adding that the plan was approved in August, which meant an aggressive timeline to install access points in the residences before students arrived in September. “It was unreal.”

Mike Shaw, who works in Bell’s cabling and wireless SMB group, said the team had less than two weeks to install just under 200 access points. Heather Mazzotta, who manages the University of Windsor account at Bell, said project management was a huge challenge.

“We installed most of the APs in the hallways, because the university would need 24 hours notice before they could go in and fix a problem (in the residence rooms). That would have caused a nightmare,” she said. “We also didn’t want anyone to be standing around doing nothing.”

Lauzon said the pilot phase had taught the school a lot about what its real requirements were. “We wanted it so that if someone was connected wireless at one end of the campus they could walk to the other end without dropping the signal,” he said.

Mazzotta said because some of the requirements changed over the course of the project, the contract had a number of provisions in it, which made meeting the deadline more difficult. “Depending on how (the provisions) were written they would have to go before the board, which only meets once a month,” she said.

Shaw said a key element in successfully pulling off the project was getting the right kind of access around campus. Like many aging universities, Windsor has some areas with asbestos, which in some cases meant creating workarounds with existing cable, he said.

Although there are no courses that specifically require wireless Interent access, Lauzon said the University of Windsor sees wireless as a way to attract and retain students that are beginning to expect high-speed access to the Internet wherever they are.

“This is what students want,” he said. “They used to ask about PCs. Now it’s where you have wireless.”

The user names and passwords are given out to all students, staff and faculty, Lauzon added, while visitors will be given temporary ones while they are on campus.

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