Iowa State invests in wireless network upgrades

Emily Barske

A Wi-Fi upgrade is now underway for Iowa State. The $4 million project will involve the installation of more access points to improve wireless trafficking.

Lisa Ludovico, assistant director of administrative services for the Department of Residence, said the project was needed because of the increase in wireless devices in the past few years. The current access points, installed in 2005, are no longer adequate for the number of wireless devices students now bring to the residence halls.

The 2005 access points were designed for students using one device at a time and shutting them off when they are done. With technological changes, this type of access point is no longer feasible. Around 2012, the Department of Residency began receiving complaints from students that they could not access the network.

“It’s like a lot of people all trying to go through the same tunnel at the same time and what ultimately happens is a jam at the entrance of the tunnel,” Ludovico said.

The upgrades to the network on campus and in the Department of Residence  are being handled separately. The Department of Residence and Information Technology Services are partners in the Wi-FI upgrade of the residence halls, but ITS is handling the upgrade on campus on its own.

The upgrade will create more access points to the network within the residence halls. The Department of Residence has control over the access points, but ITS operates the network itself.

“We partner with residence and are the ones doing the design, installations and ongoing support of the network that we are installing of one access point per room,” said Jennifer Lohrbach, senior systems analyst for ITS.

The project will take about nine to 12 months to complete and the upgrades are supposed to last for many years. Ludovico said that the new access points will be able to handle more wireless signal than what is currently necessary, but there is no telling what technological progress may bring.

“The sheer number of wireless devices each student brings is huge,” Lohrbach said. “So being able to address the density issues that are there now will be a big impact.”

Both ITS and the Department of Residence advise students to not bring their own wireless routers. These routers cause interference with the access points and will disrupt the Wi-Fi connection for all students.

The implementation of an access point in each residence hall room and Frederiksen Court apartment will not be a fast process. However, the 7,000 plus students that live in university housing will benefit from the Wi-Fi upgrade, Ludovico said.

“Ultimately what it comes down to is we want our students to number one, be academically successful, and number two, we want them to be comfortable in their on-campus home,” Ludovico said. “And part of that comfort means having services available to them.”