Behind UNSW's wi-fi rollout

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This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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Behind UNSW's wi-fi rollout

This article appeared in the May issue of CRN as part of the main feature "Tap into the well of wi-fi opportunities"

In the 10 years since the University of NSW offered campus wi-fi, it has transitioned from Alcatel-Lucent to Cisco hardware and dumped its former model of charging for access.

Since 2007, wi-fi use blossomed from 120 access points and customers to 4,000 access points and 28,000 customers. UNSW upgraded to the faster 802.11ac protocol 18 months ago because “there’s a perception from customers that we’ll keep up with the technology,” says UNSW infrastructure services manager Greg Sawyer.

“And we already have an eye out on phase two of [802.11ac],” he says.

The university is focused on improving customer experience, which was why it stopped charging users.

“It wasn’t a good customer experience for customers to put money in and then run out when they were in the middle of things. We didn’t go to a quota [download] system, either.”

Students aren’t yet choosing to study at UNSW based solely on the wi-fi experience, but it may be a factor in their deliberations, he says. wi-fi has transformed much of the university experience, with flipped classrooms asking students to do the homework before they come to class so they can discuss what they read in greater detail.

“This year the students will have tablets and laptops with them and the instructor will decide what to put on the main screen [to discuss].”

The library has also transformed from rows of books and carrels to benches for students to congregate using their mobile devices, says Sawyer. “We have 60 to 70 access points in some areas.”

And while back office and clerical staff are still largely tethered to blue Ethernet cables for their PCs, guests are increasingly making use of EduRoam, which provides reciprocal wi-fi rights between university campuses.

“Everyone expects they’ll be connected when they come on to campus.”

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