Old 10th March 2008, 12:04   #1
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Faster Wi-Fi deployed at U of Minnesota

<< Wi-Fi has become commonplace on college campuses, but the University of Minnesota is embarking on a five-year project to upgrade its Wi-Fi network to the much faster 802.11n standard. The $15 million upgrade would provide about 9,500 access points, one of the largest deployments to date.

The first phase of the project, to begin in May, involves replacing 2,200 access points that have been in place for as long as nine years. The access points from Cisco Systems Inc., D-Link Corp. and others will be replaced with 802.11n APs from Trapeze Networks at a cost of about $3 million, said Louis Hammond, assistant director of networking and telecom at the university, in an interview today.

Trapeze beat 23 other bids in a rigorous RFP process, and won because of cost and Trapeze's ability to manage the overall Wi-Fi infrastructure centrally and in a secure manner, Hammond said. A key factor was that Trapeze has a planning tool called Ringmaster that allows the university to use computer-aided design drawings of buildings to immediately begin planning where to locate the APs for maximum coverage in 300 buildings with 1,300 floors, and serving 80,000 students, faculty and staff.

"We're trying to build a safer and more secure system, and the current Wi-Fi system is open, so this one from Trapeze will lock it down," Hammond said.

Even though 802.11n is still in draft form, many vendors are selling products to the existing draft specification. Hammond said the university was concerned about deploying a draft N product, but decided to go with it because the hardware in the standard is finalized and only the software might be changed. "If there are changes, they will be in software," which would reduce the cost and complexity of a change, Hammond said.

The university has two campuses, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, covering 1,204 acres. Faster 802.11n, with its longer range, could be useful in eventually supporting real-time video and voice traffic, but will also help as the school prepares to scan bar codes on tickets to football games in a new stadium opening in the fall of 2009.

Hammond said the more robust Wi-Fi system could be integrated in the future with WiMax network applications, although he said it is unclear what those applications might be. Trapeze said it could integrate with WiMax technology when it becomes available, meeting one of the conditions of the RFP, Hammond said. "There are still a lot of questions about WiMax," he said. >>

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