Faster Wireless Network Upgrade

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An upgrade of the Wireless Network (Wi-Fi) on the NAU Flagstaff Campus is underway. A Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued and a resulting contract was executed for new Wi-Fi network equipment manufactured by Cisco at the end of the Spring 2012 semester. 

The existing Wi-Fi product was installed five years ago and it shows its age. It lacks many of the features necessary to support the influx of new wireless devices used by students, faculty and staff. The existing Wi-Fi implementation supports the 802.11 a/b/g standards and is capable of connections up to 54 mbps. The current system was installed to cover the maximum area possible with minimal equipment but no longer provides adequate network speeds. 

The new system is being installed to provide coverage inside buildings along with meeting the anticipated performance requirements for an approximately 40 percent increase in the number of Access Points (APs) installed compared to the previous system. The new APs support the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11n, which is capable of client connections up to 450 mbps, along with the older standards. The new APs also have the capability to be upgraded to the next anticipated Wi-Fi standard. 

The system has several features that improve client performance, such as beam-forming and band-steering, in addition to supporting the faster standards. It also provides robust management capabilities, providing troubleshooting of client connections, performance information, and the detection and mitigation of environmental factors that can affect the Wi-Fi performance.

Funding has been approved to install the new system in all buildings, including those currently without Wi-Fi coverage.  Installation to cover the entire campus is anticipated to be a two-year project with prioritization of the residence halls. The Network Operations Center (NOC) is designing the AP placement and installing new switches that provide Power over Ethernet with gigabit connections to the APs, and the Telecom team is installing additional cable where needed and the APs themselves. You can expect to see them in your building when your network is upgraded. 

The installation started this past summer when many of the residence halls were unoccupied; about half of the halls were completed. Cline Library has also been upgraded. Installation will continue in the Student Union and the remaining resident halls through the fall semester. Next, the academic buildings will be upgraded, then installation in the administrative buildings will start in the summer of 2013.

Once a building has been upgraded, the old Wi-Fi system will be turned off. At that point the SSIDs for the Wi-Fi network will change from NAU-Secure to NAU for the WPA2 encrypted network, and from NAU-Public to NAU-Guest for the unencrypted network. Residence halls have the network name of ResNet for the secure/encrypted network and ResNet-Alt for the open network. Connecting to the new network works the same as the previous Wi-Fi network—only the names have changed.

Fall 2012
9/7/2012 1:14:35 PM