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Puerto Rico University Overhauls Massive WiFi Network

Sistema University Ana G. Mendéz in Puerto Rico will be implementing a new WiFi infrastructure on its three campuses and 15 satellite centers. Using gear from Ruckus Wireless, the institution's new wireless network will support 40,000 students and staff and replace hundreds of legacy 802.11 a/b/g access points. The new 802.11n network will be rolled out in phases and is expected to be done by the end of 2010.

According to the university, 60 percent to 75 percent of students attend classes with WiFi-enabled laptops and 80 percent to 90 percent have WiFi-enabled PDAs or smart phones. "Given the mobile Internet phenomenon, a reliable and high speed WiFi infrastructure has become a prerequisite for higher education," said Carlos Fuentes, vice chancellor of IT resources at Metropolitan University, one of the schools in the system. "Like many universities, migrating to the next-generation of WiFi was imperative to improve the overall academic experience within our university system."

The university system chose products from Ruckus after competitive testing that showed the company's ZoneFlex Smart WLAN system delivered a performance and coverage advantage at half the cost of the nearest competitive wireless system. "The performance and range delta between the Ruckus system ... and the others we tested was remarkable," said Miguel Paulino, manager of networks and telecommunications. "All of our testing and evaluation substantiated this."

One aspect of testing evaluated the products' ability to "fairly" allocate bandwidth across a mix of newer and older clients. The university said that with a mix of fast and slow clients on the network, many of the systems under examination throttled down device speeds to 802.11b rates of 11 Mbps even though faster clients could support rates of 100 Mbps or more. "The Ruckus system automatically allocated airtime and network capacity fairly across all clients based on each client's capabilities. This was a key differentiator, especially since we see so many new high speed 802.11n devices coming online," said Paulino.

In the first phase of the 802.11n deployment, the institution will set up hundreds of ZoneFlex 7962 indoor and ZoneFlex 7762 outdoor access points for wireless coverage at its three main campuses. These will be managed through Ruckus' ZoneDirector 3100 series controllers. IT staff will use Ruckus' FlexMaster remote management software for access point configuration and event and firmware management across campuses. For guest access management the university will use WISPr, a feature in the controller that automatically redirects users to a remote Web server for authentication. That will allow the university system to "brand" guest access for each of its campuses.

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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