FHSU unveils newest development in on-campus WiFi

FHSU University Relations

Fort Hays State University, a national leader in incorporating technology into its academic environment, has joined with Aruba Networks Inc. to create a wireless network that supports continuing innovation in the classroom and the learning experience.

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“This new network will support more, so our faculty can do more,” Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said today during a news conference. “I do not believe our faculty and students should ever have to ask, ‘Is the WiFi going to work today?’ It should always be there. It should always work. I believe the Aruba solution is the best so far at achieving that goal.”

Aruba is a leading provider of next-generation network access solutions for mobile enterprises. A new Aruba 802.11ac-based network has replaced the 802.11n wireless infrastructure on the FHSU campus. The new network, which is the first all-802.11ac infrastructure deployed by an institution of higher education, enables FHSU to accommodate the proliferation of mobile and wireless devices being used on campus. The network also supports classroom technologies such as streaming video while delivering enhanced performance for both 802.11ac and 802.11n devices.

“Current students and prospective students expect wireless access when they come to campus,” Hammond said. “Each student typically has three or four devices that use WiFi. As more of these devices come to campus, users will expect the faster speeds associated with this new generation of wireless equipment.”

He continued: “Adding these high-speed devices to the campus network and the widespread use of these devices in our classrooms had put a strain on our existing WiFi network. That equipment was aging and near the end of vendor support for it. So, we had an opportunity to move to the newest generation of WiFi. There are always some risks involved in moving to the newest technology and in moving to a different vendor, but this was a calculated risk. Based on what we have seen in terms of performance, reliability and vendor support, we believe we made a very good choice. Aruba was chosen because it would best fit our goals today and into the future.”

David Schmidt, director of computing and telecommunications, described the process of updating the wireless network at FHSU. “With this upgrade, we have 491 access points in 38 buildings,” he said. “When the Center for Networked Learning comes on line for the fall semester, we will have more than 500 access points in 39 buildings. This means wireless access should be available just about anywhere on campus using just about any wireless device.”

Schmidt credited Derek Johnson, data communications coordinator, for contacting the vendors, evaluating the solutions, serving as network architect and managing the project. This was the first deployment on such a large scale. Johnson did diagnostic work after the wireless access points were deployed, working with Aruba’s network engineers to make the process go smoothly. Kevin Burd and James Cech (pronounced CHECK), network wiring technicians, installed nearly all the access points. “In the last week of deployment, they installed roughly 220 access points across 12 buildings in five days,” Schmidt said.

FHSU has long been a “bring your own device” — BYOD — institution, supporting a wide range of student and faculty personal devices. Schmidt said Aruba understands the complications that a BYOD community can experience and has developed the tools and technology to provide a smooth experience for FHSU.

He said the new Aruba-based 802.11ac network offers up to 30 percent faster and more efficient performance and is able to handle a higher number of devices, provide smarter interference avoidance and handling, and ensure faster support of trends and innovations that professors can use to enhance learning experiences in the classroom.

“This new network prepares FHSU for even faster devices coming down the road and definitely fits our forward-thinking mentality,” he said.

“Aruba’s 802.11ac solution allows us to support all the laptops, smart phones and tablets that our students are bringing to class, while also enabling our faculty to stream HD video or show high-definition content on classroom displays,” Schmidt said. “Our faculty tend to be on the ‘bleeding edge’ of bringing new technology and ideas to the classroom. The new wireless network provides a reliable foundation that allows professors to comfortably incorporate new educational tools into their lesson plans.”

About Aruba Networks, Inc.Aruba Networks is a leading provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise. The company’s Mobile Virtual Enterprise architecture unifies wired and wireless network infrastructures into one seamless access solution for corporate headquarters, mobile business professionals, remote workers and guests. This unified approach to access networks enables IT organizations and users to securely address the BYOD phenomenon, dramatically improving productivity and lowering capital and operational costs. Listed on the NASDAQ and Russell 2000 Index, Aruba is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and has operations throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific regions. To learn more, visit Aruba at http://www.arubanetworks.com.

History of wireless connectivity at FHSU

  • 1998-1999 Long-haul wireless link to Sternberg. Hotspot in Gross Memorial Coliseum.2000-2004 Hotspots (mixed 802.11b, 802.11b/g) deployed in several locations around campus. Considered second generation of the wireless network.
  • May 2005 Third generation of wireless network (802.11abg) first deployed. Campus-wide deployment completed in July 2006. First in Kansas to have campus-wide wireless.
  • Fall 2007 University-mandated laptops.
  • 2010 FHSU begins fourth-generation wireless network (802.11n) rollout in stages, focusing on highest need. Reaches about 50 percent penetration around 2012.
  • Dec 2011-Jan 2012 Explosive growth of wireless devices.
  • 2013 FHSU begins rollout of fifth generation wireless network (802.11ac) in October. Paused in November 2013 — Re-started and finished January 2014 First university in country to have an all-802.11ac wireless network. More than 500 access points.
  • hmmmm

    Its kind of funny that this article comes out today. There was a kids wrestling tournament out at Gross Memorial this weekend. And the tournament was ran on track wrestling clocks which uses Wi-Fi to do live scoring online, and everything is ran through a computer on site as well. WELL the Wi-Fi was not strong enough to run he event and the event staff had to keep telling everyone to turn off their Wi-Fi becuase it was bogging down the computers that run the clocks.

    • Pebcac

      They should have setup their own private (non broadcasted) wireless network for the score clocks to operate off of. This would have alleviated any outside devices causing connectivity problems or bandwidth issues. Sounds to me the problems stemmed from the poor planning of the event coordinators and not the university’s wireless system. Anyone in that position should’ve known better than to run a critical scoring system off of a public wifi system.

      • LG

        We talked to them about accessing their secure network, and were told we wouldn’t get access to it, because the public Wi-Fi would be plenty big. So before you start talking trash on us and our planning maybe you should know the facts. FHSU did work with us during the event to get things up and going. Oh and by the way if you are going to call someone or some club out on a public forum, at least have the decency to post your real name.

        Lance Geyer
        Hays Wrestling Club

        • Lighten up, Francis

          No need to get your panties in a bunch.

        • alexander

          So many jokes, so little time

          • Guie LeDeuche

            Go on.

        • Toby Prine

          Bravo Lance Geyer! Hays Post has become a cesspool of nasty and hateful comments by people who provide no or weak evidence for their wild accusations. Readers should demand what you’ve stated….decency, respect, and civility in our interactions. Disagreements most certainly. But, as you’ve stated, have the decency to identify yourself. Don’t hide behind the cowardly assumption of retaliation by others. I hope others follow your lead.

      • mnfats95

        If only it were that simple.

      • Go taking a networking class

        Do you have any idea what it takes to support that many devices? So they’re expected to support, what, twice as many devices as the maximum occupancy of the building? They’d have to make sure people could have their cell phone and a tablet or laptop. Some people may have 3 devices – do you allow for that? And they all need to be able to stream Netflix, post stupid crap on Facebook, and download automatic software updates. Figure out how many access points that would take, how big of a pipe FHSU would need to the Internet, and put together a cost proposal. See what the trolls on HaysPost think about spending tax dollars on Internet access for people watching a wrestling tournament. Or, you know, people could just turn off their Internet access and WATCH THE WRESTLING TOURNAMENT so the score clocks can have the bandwidth.

  • Fhsu Student

    So we’re already on the “new and improved” wifi? Well here’s what I have to say to that. It’s slower then it used to be in some buildings and residential buildings, and when I’m in a large class I get the impression that it can’t handle large volumes of traffic.

    • TheMoreYouKnow

      Have you reported this problem to the CTC HelpDesk? Accurate reports to the appropriate people will allow the problems to be fixed. Complaining on a public forum doesn’t help anyone.

  • t3slow

    Why does FHSU need 802.11ac when over 90% of the devices on the market do not support it, thus cannot take advantage of the increased speeds? It sounds like it was another case of too much funding burning a hole in someone’s pocket. Overall, just more money poorly spent. About the only bright spot in the whole situation is they didn’t choose a junk wireless solution from Cisco.

    • TheMoreYouKnow

      FHSU will have this network for many years. The network designer planned for the future, which is brilliant considering how quickly technology changes. This was a smart move that allows the network to last longer, saving money in the long term. The old access points were at end-of-life and had to be replaced. People should ask questions and gather information before passing judgement.

    • mnfats95

      Why would you replace your wireless network with something that is already outdated? 90% is a generous estimate, it’s probably more like 95%. That doesn’t change the fact that in a year or two 75% of all devices will be able to take advantage of it. Not to mention the fact that the newer ac AP’s from Aruba and other vendors have technologies built into them that help increase performance on older N devices as well. If you are going to drop in a new wireless network that you want to last 3 to 5 years you don’t buy equipment that is a spec behind already.

    • t3slow

      I’m guessing the two previous posters *might* understand technology, but apparently you know nothing about budgeting. So budgeting issues aside, 802.11ac is still considered bleeding edge by most accounts so why would you install it today when you know most devices won’t support it for 1-2 years? AND you have a working 802.11n infrastructure already in place? If you had an existing b/g infrastructure, then yes, install 802.11ac and there would be zero question marks. Is your projected per student pipe to the Internet going to exceed the speed of 802.11n? No. Is the price of 802.11ac going to go up in the next few years? No. If you have density issues, then install some 802.11n APs today with multiple antennas in those areas, move the existing APs for better coverage, and wait for the cost to come down. IMO, there was no need for a rip and replace strategy.

      • mnfats95

        I believe the answer to your question as to why this was done was in the article. I of course cannot comment on whether or not these reasons are truthful, but if they are the truth then I believe it is reason enough.

        “Adding these high-speed devices to the campus network and the widespread use of these devices in our classrooms had put a strain on our existing WiFi network. That equipment was aging and near the end of vendor support for it. So, we had an opportunity to move to the newest generation of WiFi. There are always some risks involved in moving to the newest technology and in moving to a different vendor, but this was a calculated risk. Based on what we have seen in terms of performance, reliability and vendor support, we believe we made a very good choice. Aruba was chosen because it would best fit our goals today and into the future.”

        As far as adding and moving AP’s is concerned, I’m not familiar with what they replaced, but if the current equipment was “near the end of vendor support for it” that means no more calling when you have issues with it, no more firmware updates to resolve issues with newer wifi chipsets or drivers. Maybe you can still get hardware replacement depending on the wireless vendor. Why waste money buying equipment off ebay or from a refurbished product dealer that you are going to replace in a year or so when ac devices are the standard?

        On a deployment as big as this you certainly would want to limit mixing different vendor’s products as much as possible if you decided to just buy extra AP’s that were still supported to supplement your network. This would most likely mean a building at a time swap out if you decided to move APs from one location to another to increase density. So if you were going to replace a building’s worth of AP’s would you still buy N devices for the new building?

        I don’t know the details of where this money came from, it could be our tax dollars or it could be donor money so I cannot comment on that. What I do know is that I see no problem moving to ac APs if you are going to replace your wireless system today.

        I also won’t argue over whether or not they need the speed of ac at this time as I have no idea what their expectations are of their wireless network, but I would imagine that the network is used for more than just student access to the internet. They could be doing any number of things that would benefit from the higher speeds that ac offers. Newer ac APs from most of the vendors who offer enterprise solutions have noticeable performance gains for N clients as well, not just the connection speed increases ac offers devices that support it.

        Again, not being familiar with what they removed from the network, its also possible they had a product that offered little in the way of RF management, rogue management, or even network management for that matter. The benefits that these things offer a large enterprise network can be worth the cost of an upgrade alone.

        As a tax payer, if my tax dollars paid for a small amount of this upgrade in my opinion there are thousands of worse things it could have went towards.

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