Campus WiFi Upgrade Project

Campus WiFi Upgrade Project 2017-01-11T16:19:33+00:00

Objective

Provide ubiquitous, reliable and higher capacity WiFi services to campus resident halls, academic and administrative buildings.  Provide information, education and guidelines to this community so that all members understand what is needed to maintain a campus WiFi environment that is as robust and reliable as possible.

Project Scope

A multi-year effort to upgrade and enhance WiFi  services to campus resident halls, academic and administrative buildings.  IT continues to work with the campus IT governance groups to establish installation priorities.  Areas not included in this project:

  • Open locations such as parking lots, tennis courts and walking areas.
  • Basements and far reaching spaces located on campus.

Funding

Budget will be a capital investment from IT allocations and limited to a yearly amount.

Cost

The university has funded our Campus WiFi Upgrade Project to upgrade the infrastructure and improve WiFi capacity and coverage on campus. The total cost to install an individual Access Point (AP) varied significantly based on user density requirements, building age and design as well as construction materials, aesthetic considerations and additional hardwired network needs.

The cost estimates were based on actual costs of current campus WiFi upgrades. The graphs below provide rough cost breakdown information.  (Click to view larger image.)

wifi

The average cost to purchase and install a WiFi access point is $2,500/AP.    The scope of the project has increased due to the need for additional APs as well as hardwired connections to those devices.

Home vs Enterprise APs

Q: What is the difference and why is an enterprise AP so much more expensive?
A: The answer lies largely in capacity and feature set. Read more…

Background

All administrative, academic and resident halls are equipped at some point and in some way to our computer network.  Mobile devices and the increased need for wireless connectivity is one of the fastest growing areas of technology in the world today.  At last count each  Hollins student is bringing an average of 3.6 devices.  Most students are bringing a laptop, tablet and smartphone to campus and expecting all of them to connect through our wireless network some of which simultaneously.  This growth has placed significant demand on our wireless network and increased coverage must occur to respond to these needs.

There are currently 191 AP’s in the residence halls, academic and administrative buildings on campus.  Our WiFi network was originally designed in 2008 to have 99% coverage.  That site survey of all buildings required only 84 APs were needed to cover our campus.  Due to the decrease in signal strength and the increase in usage we are currently at 191 and are putting out more to accommodate the demand.  Below shows our WiFi expansion on campus.  (Click to view larger image.)

Going Forward

As we move forward we will continue to upgrade outdated access points to ensure the highest quality of wireless access.  Below is a chart which outlines each campus building, where we started, where we are now and our plans for upgrading.  (Click to view larger image.)

The actual order that a building will be upgraded will be due to many factors such as when the building is available for construction and/or renovation.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the wifi survey.  It has helped us tremendously to pin down problem areas and move forward with the WiFi upgrade.