University of Michigan
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March 21, 2019

ITS working to meet Wi-Fi access needs as usage keeps growing

October 4, 2016

ITS working to meet Wi-Fi access needs as usage keeps growing

How important is Wi-Fi on U-M's Ann Arbor campus? Based on usage statistics for the first day of the fall term, Wi-Fi has become a must-have for U-M faculty, staff and students.

As the fall term started Sept. 6, 95,968 unique devices connected to Wi-Fi networks on campus, passing 54 terabytes of traffic. To put this in context, more unique Wi-Fi devices were used on access points on that day alone than were used during the entire week ending on Dec. 4, 2015.

During the first day of class, more than 55,000 people connected to the campus' two secure Wi-Fi networks: MWireless and eduroam.

University executives have authorized several capital investments, including previous projects to upgrade Wi-Fi in libraries and public-facing buildings. The most recent investment was the three-year Campus Wi-Fi Upgrade Project, providing upgrades to 275 academic, research, administrative and residence hall buildings on the Ann Arbor campus.

Since the project started in June 2015, 5,579 new Wi-Fi access points were installed and 6,000 Wi-Fi access points were upgraded to improve Wi-Fi in 52 university buildings covering 5.8 million square feet.

By nearly doubling the number of access points on campus, for a total of 11,579, the Wi-Fi network is better able to meet the needs of students, faculty, staff and visitors.

"It has been spectacular that you can now move almost anywhere on the campus and maintain Wi-Fi connectivity. This connectivity is available to guests, too. The upgrade project has definitely improved overall coverage and signal strength in areas where I operate," said Peter Washabaugh, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and associate professor of aerospace engineering.

"We are also pleased to see a more nimble response to exploring alternative approaches. For instance, we are working with ITS to find ways to allow for use of Apple TV in classrooms without interference to the Wi-Fi network. We are currently exploring and expanding the use of Airplay in the classrooms, which allows lecturing from anywhere in a room."

Upgrading Wi-Fi on such a large campus requires cooperation and collaboration from many areas of the university.

"ITS could not accomplish an upgrade of this magnitude without the involvement and support of many groups, from the Office of the Provost reacting to the need, and approving funding, IT Commons for their support of the original proposal, to the work conducted by Plant Construction, Architecture, Engineering and Construction, and Exterior Elements Design Review," said Andy Palms, executive director of ITS Infrastructure.

The project also requires a strong partnership with leadership, facilities and information technology staff in the units, as upgrades are conducted.

"The communication between the project team and our unit was top notch, both in giving information and providing answers to questions from our unit," said Bill Kelly, facilities manager at the Gerald R. Ford School of Policy.

With almost two years left on the project, the Wi-Fi experience on campus will continue to improve as the use of Wi-Fi devices continues to increase.