NDSU Improves Campus Wireless Internet
Network Engineering revamps system following complaints
Published: Monday, February 10, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 09:02
As planned in a three-step process, NDSU Network Engineering has finished a process to revamp the NDSU wireless Internet network.
As the Wi-Fi servers on NDSU’s campus have more than 20,000 devices connected to the Internet in a week, Network Engineering had some problems. Members of the team said there were various complaints about the speed of the Internet and various other capabilities last year.
Director of Network Engineering and Operations in the Information Technology Division Terry Wieland said the Internet now has capabilities that are reaching a whole new level.
“These access points are centrally-controlled,” Wieland said. “So what we first had to do is replace all of our controlling systems.”
This new-look system isn’t exactly repaired, though. Interim Vice President for Information Technology Marc Wallman said his team completely replaced the technology in place, which cost thousands of dollars.
“It’s a dynamic thing, providing wireless service,” Wallman said. “There’s always going to be a few spots, but in general, if there’s a problem people should tell us, and we should be able to fix it.”
As of now, 89 buildings on campus have wireless Internet capabilities. Two outdoor venues — Dakota Plaza and the Babbling Brook — have the same possibilities.
NDSU Network Engineering added 24 wireless access points, which makes 851 points total.
Wallman said those added access points were to make sure students didn’t have to deal with slow Internet at locations that have a large number of students on the Internet at a time. These points make NDSU a thoroughly covered campus for wireless Internet.
“From our perspective, it’s been a huge improvement,” Wallman said. “We were just getting skewered on Twitter all of the time, because the performance was so bad. From what we see now, it’s changed a lot in terms of people satisfaction.”
Feedback was a major part of NDSU Network Engineering making adjustments to their wireless Internet setup. Employees kept a close tab on social media sites, like Twitter, to keep up with on students’ reaction.
Wallman said those comments weren’t always positive.
“The whole thing went back last year where this was horrible, just awful,” Wallman said. “We’ve worked the positions that have needed upgrades. We asked for a technology fee increase, and that was approved about a year ago. We got working on that.”
Right now, NDSU’s wireless Internet service ranges from 18th St. N. to N. University Drive and 12th Ave. N to 19th Ave N. This means Niskanen Expansion and University Village apartments aren’t on the same Internet as those on campus.
Wieland said it has been a rush trying to serve the Internet needs of NDSU students, simply because of the high number of devices used by an increasing number of students.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we expect the explosion that we witnessed in the last two or three years,” Wieland said. “As we developed and reengineered this network several times, we had to not only increase coverage, which is the availability of the signal, but capacity.”
There are a variety of ways students can improve their own Internet access on campus. Most easily, students can move closer to wireless access points and move away from obstructing devices.
Students can also disconnect their cell phones or connect to the Internet with an Ethernet cable if they’re using a device like a laptop with an Ethernet port.
“This wireless network is a very precious commodity,” Wieland said. “It’s what’s allowing this university to move ahead. Wireless is out-pacing wired by almost two-to-one at this point. So we had to make sure that if we had a single point of failure in our network that we were able to back that up.”
Whether this expansion of technologies continues on campus is tough to predict. With the growing trend of technological diversion, students are bringing a wide range of devices from home to campus. A student might bring a cell phone, tablet and laptop to class on a consistent basis.
Wieland said this was another reason why NDSU Network Engineering needed to improve their wireless capacities. Not only are a record number of students being enrolled on campus, they might be bringing a record number of devices, too.
However, this trend might be seeing a standstill. Though it is impossible to tell what the landscape of technology will be in the future, it is possible students will start using technologies that are all wrapped into one.
Either way, Wieland said he doesn’t see a decline in Internet usage coming anytime soon.
“It will continue to increase,” Wieland said. “We don’t know where that plateau is yet … It’s really a hard thing to predict.”