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.
"This new network will support more, so our faculty can do more," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said today during a news conference on the university campus. "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," President 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.