Better wifi for U of M

By the fall semester, students using wifi on campus will experience stronger distribution and more consistent service from the university.

Information services and technology (IST) are working to install or upgrade the wifi in 10 buildings on campus to the N standard.

The 10 buildings are University Centre, biological sciences, the art lab, Machray Hall, Armes, Sinnott, St Andrew’s College, Allen, Duff Roblin and the administration building.

Doug Stoyko, director of computer and network services and functional lead on the wireless project, explained there are three standards for wireless Internet: B, G and N.

Stoyko said some of the buildings they are upgrading have B and G standard and the project will upgrade them to the newest standard which is N.

Stoyko said N is a hybrid between the B and G standards and combines the best aspects of both of them.

Stoyko said now there is a combined antenna that should work just as well in the long range as in the short range.

Stoyko explained University Centre has wireless at the B and G standard but is a priority building for upgrade to an N standard.

Stoyko said students using wifi on campus will see an increase in the range, signal strength and throughput that is available.

“We are greatly enhancing the coverage of the wireless access in each building,” said Stoyko.

Stoyko explained the project is increasing wireless distribution so more people can use it in more places, but it is not changing the services.

Stoyko added that the project does not include public wifi, but the upgraded system is capable of doing it.

Stoyko said if funding is available after the project they might look into public wifi.

Stoyko said the project costs $2.6 million and the target is to have all 10 buildings done by September.

Mike Langedock, chief information officer for the U of M, said funding for the project came from infrastructure money, operational and capital funding.

“This is the largest one year funding allocation [that has been] put towards wireless,” Langedock said.

Langedock said he thinks one of the motivations behind the project was that it was a priority for UMSU.

Camilla Tapp, UMSU president, said over the summer she prepared a paper comparing the wireless coverage at the U of M to other Canadian universities and passed the paper onto administration and IST.

“Needless to say, our coverage was insufficient and way below the standards set by other institutions,” said Tapp.

Tapp explained the current wireless service does not service some large classrooms in buildings that are covered, and the network in University Centre is slow and unstable.

Tapp explained wireless coverage was important because the amount of academic materials online is increasing and so is the number of students with laptops, tablets and smartphones.

“We think the current plan to update the wireless service is a vast improvement over what we currently have, but will need updating and expansion over time,” said Tapp.

Elissa Brok, a second-year arts student who uses wifi on campus almost every day, said she has not been satisfied with wifi availability.

“It’s very limited in most places, especially certain spots in University Centre are lower than other spots,” Brok said.

Brok said she thinks wifi could be improved by better service in every building.

Stephanie Maendel, a second year science student who uses wifi a couple of times a week, said wifi could be improved but it’s not a “huge” issue.

“It would be nice to have better wifi in classrooms . . . but it’s not necessary. There is wifi if you need it to study outside of class,” said Maendel.