Campus Networking

Spoon River College Upgrades 4-Campus Network

Spoon River College in Illinois has gone public with deployment of a wireless network that includes a network loop connecting four campuses dozens of miles apart. The installation uses Motorola gear. Motorola has also announced new managed services to provide support for wireless networks and mobile devices.

According to Spoon River College CIO Raj Siddaraju, the previous T1 networks, which cost nearly $7,000 a month to operate and were maintained by several telecomm vendors, had reliability issues. "In one instance, it took our vendors two full days to find and correct a mistake that caused major network outages," he said. Also, the institution wanted to revamp its network to support the growing demand for bandwidth in applications such as distance learning, streaming video, and voice over IP.

The new network, designed and implemented with the help of STL Business Technology Solutions in Bloomington, runs Motorola PTP 58500 and PTP 58600 wireless Ethernet point-to-point bridges. Both lines operate in the 5.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands. The 58500 model delivers Ethernet data rates up to 105 Mbps and distances up to 155 miles. The 58600 model runs data rates up to 300 Mbps (aggregate) with a slightly shorter range.

A major challenge in the project was connecting the four campuses of the college, which ranged from 19 miles to 36 miles apart. One set of connections traversed a forest bluff, a major river, and a large electric company installation. The solution included links at each site along with two relay points and the use of high performance antennas installed atop landmark buildings. The deployment went live in August 2009.

"We were very fortunate to have the cooperation of local businesses and organizations that took the opportunity to 'give back' to the college by offering space for our equipment at very little cost," said Siddaraju. "Midwestern Grain Marketing, for example, provided us with space on the tops of their grain elevators and silos--some that were 140 feet tall--giving us the height we needed while saving us significant dollars in installation costs." The communities where the campuses are located provided space for installations on top of public safety buildings.

The new network reduced monthly operational costs by about $500, the college said. The system was financed with a four-year lease paid through budget already allocated to the previous network installation. After the lease ends, the college will own the equipment outright.

In other Motorola news, the company has launched two new services, the Managed Infrastructure Service and the Managed Device Service. The infrastructure service manages technical operations of an organization's wireless network both remotely and via dispatch of an engineer to the customer site. The device service is intended to provide device management and helpdesk support by phone and remote triage. The service, which is multi-lingual, includes software rollout and version control, profile management, device tracking, and drive wiping for lost devices.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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