Consider these staggering facts: Between January 2013 and 2014, the number of Wi-Fi connections per day reached 2.5 million — triple the numbers reached in previous years on the U-M Ann Arbor campus (excluding UMHS). Also during this period, the number of devices doubled and peaked at 99, 624.

Students on average brought five connected devices to campus with them this year. Increasingly, video is accessed over Wi-Fi rather than through cable TV services. Since the total number of users has not grown significantly, this means each person now has more devices and is “always connected.” This exponential growth places a huge demand on the existing Wi-Fi capacity.

A substantial project to upgrade the Ann Arbor campus Wi-Fi network is addressing this need. “Anytime-anywhere,” or ubiquitous, reliable, high-bandwidth Wi-Fi, is a basic expectation and a critical need for research, teaching and learning activities.

Andy Palms, executive director of communications systems and data centers at Information and Technology Services, stated,  “The project to upgrade 24 high-traffic buildings is underway and will deliver on our promise to provide reliable Wi-Fi across campus. Students and faculty members should notice a significant difference in several high-traffic buildings when they return in the fall.”

Wi-Fi in the undergraduate and graduate libraries recently was upgraded — a seamless process that led to a much-improved environment.

“The upgrade of the Wi-Fi network at the Shapiro and Hatcher libraries has been a welcome enhancement to the overall library user experience — a night-and-day improvement in coverage and connectivity,” said Bill Kopinski, interim manager of Library Desktop Support Services at the U-M Libraries.

Palmer Commons, the Michigan Unions, Student Activities Building, and Rackham and Ruthven buildings, among others, will go through similar upgrades.

Upgraded Wi-Fi will support the increasing number of mobile devices in use. For the campus community this means increased personal productivity, improved group collaboration environments, and greater flexibility to schedule and utilize university spaces — all of which advance the university’s academic mission.

Location changes no longer will require reconfiguration of devices, enabling faculty and students to work in previously unusable areas and access a wider range of applications.

While this upgrade offers an immediate, improved user experience, there are longer-term benefits. In an environment of continuous technological evolution, it positions U-M to capitalize on new technology. Aligning with the IT Strategic Plan, it strengthens the NextGen infrastructure by making a strategic investment in the key area of communications networks.