Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

New Wireless Initiative

This news item expired December 30, 2013. It may contain out-of-date information.

In 1897, Guglielmo Marconi sent the first ever wireless communication over the open sea. His message: "Are you ready?" Now, nearly 115 years later, university IT departments around the world are asking themselves the same question about wireless: "Are we ready?"; ready for the flood of demand from students who want 24/7, always-on, full-coverage access to online classes, research material, and social networks.

At Iowa State, the Computation Advisory Committee (CAC) and Information Technology Services (ITS) are moving to meet that demand with a new $1 million initiative aimed at enhancing and expanding wireless access across campus. The money, which comes from the Student Technology Fee, will be spent during the next year, but students will begin to see benefits almost immediately.

High-usage areas, such as the Memorial Union and the Hub, will gain greater capacity through the addition of more access points and the implementation of load balancing to provide stronger, more reliable signals. Even where coverage is already strong, new equipment will be installed to bring the entire system up to the latest 802.11n standard.

Along with the upgrades will come increased coverage. Currently, wireless access is available to about 75% of the campus, but after the project is complete, that number will rise to 95% of the indoor public areas and collaborative learning spaces and all the way up to 100% for general-assignment classrooms.

This stronger wireless infrastructure will allow students to engage in interactive group activities not possible before. Everything from real-time document editing, to advanced project management, to class presentations will benefit from the enhanced system.

"The increase in wireless access on campus is important for both in-class and external activities," says Arne Hallam, Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Professors are placing more and more readings and lecture materials (including lecture slides) online for students to access outside of the classroom. For students to be able view and review these materials in the hallways before and after class is a major enhancement to learning. Many classrooms on campus do not currently have sufficient accessibility or bandwidth for this to be effective. These upgrades will significantly improve the opportunity for faculty members to utilize such activities."

There is little doubt that wireless and mobile communications are going to be a driving force in education in the coming years. And by committing resources to expand and improve access, Iowa State is making sure we are ready.

Marconi would be pleased.

Further information about wireless service can be found on the Data Network Connection (Wireless, Ethernet, and DSL) service page.

Read the Inside Iowa State article, $1 million marked for latest wireless project.