By Emily Rushton, communications specialist, UIT Strategic Communication
In the midst of moving all buildings over to the new campus network backbone equipment, University Information Technology, UIT, is simultaneously working on another large-scale project: Replacing aging wireless access points across campus.
There are over 4,600 wireless access points, or APs, installed across lower campus, the hospital and health sciences, as well as remote locations — and the time has come for a third of those to be replaced. It’s a daunting task that will be tackled by the UIT network team as well as an outside contractor.
Earl Lewis, project manager for UIT Common Infrastructure Services, will be working with the contractor to ensure they understand potential challenges associated with the project — things like building access, timing and limiting disruptions of day-to-day work.
“My job will be to coordinate all of that with the contractor and the building occupants, and make sure that departments are impacted as little as possible,” Lewis said.
To start, UIT is preparing a building-by-building schedule for the replacements, and work is expected to begin in early December — with an estimated completion date of February 2016.
“Notifications will go out to people in those buildings,” assured Lewis. “We’re very conscious of the fact that people rely on wireless network access now more than ever. We’ll be doing the bulk of this work in the evenings, so we should have very little disruption to end users.”
While the key goal here is maintenance — replacing aging APs that are outside of software support — the new APs do offer some performance improvements, such as operating on a 5 Ghz frequency not shared by other devices.
“The 5 Ghz frequency is less congested, and the new devices can provide some performance improvement by operating in that frequency,” explained Lewis.
The good news is in many areas, there may be enough coverage from multiple APs to minimize impact and lessen the possibility of degraded Wi-Fi service — but if you’re in a building during a scheduled work time, you may still see reductions in coverage and/or periodic outages.
For buildings with only one wireless AP, it’s slightly trickier.
“In those cases, we will coordinate with occupants to ensure that wireless service is not taken offline while it’s required for business purposes,” said Lewis.
Though no one enjoys degraded Wi-Fi service, users can rest assured that it’s for a good — and proactive — reason.