Hotspots to improve UI wireless capability

By Julian Scharman

Facebooking during the morning to mid-afternoon hours has never been so painless.

The University, in conjunction with CITES and Meru Networks, is working to enhance campuswide wireless UIUCnet connectivity, and in the process, make mid-class Web browsing increasingly accessible.

Roughly two years into the 5-year, $20 million Campus Network Upgrade Project, CITES appointed Meru Networks as its chief provider for wireless hardware and has since installed 440 new access points around campus. By Spring 2006 CITES projects to reach its goal of 60 percent campuswide classroom coverage.

The new access points are comprised of more cost-effective “thin” access points. Each of the thin access points is then controlled by a central system capable of manipulating up to 150 thin points at once.

“Meru technology is a significant change from the previous technology in functionality and the amount of time required to design wireless coverage for a building,” said Mike Smeltzer, Director of Network Communications for CITES.

Before Meru Networks had the necessary wireless equipment available, there were not effective wireless solutions for large classrooms, Smeltzer said. The new access points are capable of handling unparalleled connectivity to densely populated user areas.

The new wireless hotspots installed within the last three months are operational for Altgeld Hall, the Architecture Building, Biefeldt Athletic Administration Building, Campbell Hall, Coble Hall, David Kinley Hall, Gregory Hall, The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University Laboratory High School, and seven other locations.

With the inception of increased wireless accessibility for students, faculty and guests, there is still the irrefutable idea that Internet goes hand-in-hand with distraction. With the increasing tolerability of laptop usage in the classroom, some students feel that computer users don’t use them for the right reasons, said Peter Gripper, junior in LAS.

“It’s slowly becoming more acceptable as many have laptops nowadays,” Gripper said. “But most students in class don’t use them to take notes, many just play games and browse the Web.”