The university’s executive officers have approved a plan to upgrade WiFi connectivity for faculty, staff and students in 275 academic, administrative and residential buildings on the Ann Arbor campus.
“Meeting the challenge to provide pervasive WiFi connectivity anytime, anywhere is essential to the university’s ability to conduct its mission. We need ubiquitous WiFi to collaborate, offer engaged teaching and learning, and conduct team science. The university continues to step up to this challenge,” said Laura Patterson, associate vice president and chief information officer, in announcing the project.
Wireless connectivity is a passionate topic on campus these days, and for good reason. According to a recent Huffington Post article, there were more mobile devices than people on Earth in 2013, with 71 percent of mobile communications flowing over WiFi.
Information technology governance groups representing schools, colleges and units across campus supported the recommended campus WiFi upgrades as the No. 1 IT funding priority on the Ann Arbor campus.
IT representatives from across campus worked to identify and prioritize buildings included in this project, which are to receive upgrades over the next three years. The effort does not include the Dearborn and Flint campuses, Medical School or U-M Health System.
“Our goal is to bring the network to a consistent standard of coverage, capacity and capability,” said Andy Palms, executive director of ITS Communication Systems. “The network needs to allow our students, faculty and staff to connect anytime and anywhere in the facilities where they teach, learn, work, and live.
“We also need to deliver a consistently positive WiFi experience to prospective students, parents, alumni and guests.”
He added, “WiFi is the preferred technology for an increasingly mobile population. In the past year, most large carriers announced they will provide voice over WiFi, making access to this technology even more important at U-M.”
Students are a driving force behind the effort to improve WiFi capabilities at U-M. Today’s college students are mobile. Regardless of whether they are studying, socializing or working, they are almost always connected.
“Students expect a seamless transition from academic buildings to the residence halls. They do their work everywhere, but especially at home,” said Jeff Wright, director of the Housing Information Technology Office. “We’re excited to work with ITS to bring Housing’s WiFi service up to the campus standard, to better serve our residents both now and in the future.”
Students are not the only group on campus with a growing need for expanded WiFi coverage.
“Wireless network connectivity is an integral part of enabling the work of teaching and research at the university. Having ubiquitous WiFi access is now an expectation of students, faculty and staff — wherever they are on our campuses,” said David Sweetman, director of LSA Information Technology and chair of the Unit IT Steering Committee.
“The campus WiFi capital project helps keep Michigan competitive among peer institutions. This project also positions Michigan with the infrastructure necessary for the continual growth we will see in number and variety of wireless devices brought to campus in the coming years.”
Work on the $24 million, three-year project will kick off immediately. Residence hall upgrades will begin at Bursley Hall and South Quad, and project teams will complete upgrades on as many classrooms as possible before the start of the fall term.