Partnership to improve U’s wireless network

Trapeze Networks will team with the University to deploy a network nearly 15 times faster than the current one.

Joy Petersen

The University and California-based Trapeze Networks have teamed up to deploy one of the largest wireless Internet networks in the country.

The network, which will cover both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses, will replace the current network, which officials call inadequate and outdated.

The installation is set to begin in May, but the network won’t be fully implemented for another five years.

Perhaps the most significant portion of the plan will be the speed boost provided by the new network to students who use it.

Once fully launched, network users will see service with a significant increase in speed, Steve Fletty, network design engineer for the University, said.

In testing, the new network hardware was nearly 15 times faster than the old one, Fletty said.

The issue of service speed, or lack thereof, is something third-year law student Preston Selleck said he noticed while using the current wireless network.

“There are times when I’m sitting at the Law School library, the system gets bogged down,” he said.

Selleck also said coverage with the University’s current wireless network has been an issue for him.

Mechanical engineering graduate student Meng Wang said when she goes to the Walter Library basement to study, she has trouble accessing the network.

“In the foundation level, at least for my computer, you cannot receive any signal,” she said. “In certain places on campus the wireless signal is really poor.”

The current network covers about 40 percent of campus, with about 2,200 wireless ports around campus, Fletty said.

Once complete, the network will be made up of about 9,500 ports, according to a Trapeze Networks news release.

Wireless service will reach all over campus, spokesman for Trapeze Networks Brian Johnson said, from the middle of the Washington Avenue Bridge to TCF Bank Stadium and Mariucci Arena.

With the increased range of the network, it should be able to serve nearly 80,000 people, Johnson said, but that shouldn’t cause any problems as it’s unlikely that number of people will use it simultaneously.

Another problem with the current network stems from its very beginnings at the University, as it was built over time with a mix of new and old hardware, which makes it hard to manage, Fletty said.

While it may seem inconsequential, Fletty said the new system and management abilities will allow officials to use up-to-date encryption technology they were unable to use in the past.

Ultimately, as more learning moves from the classroom to the Internet, the need for a reliable wireless service has become a vital part of a college campus, Johnson said.

“It becomes an extension of how people interact with each other and how they learn,” he said. “People don’t interact with each other next to the closest network outlet.”