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UK's Somerville College WiFi Expands Campuswide

Oxford University's Somerville College reported it's on track to become the first college in the Oxford system to blanket its campus with wireless networking. The college, which was founded in 1879 to give women a chance to benefit from a university education, expects to have its WiFi deployment done by fall 2011, in time for the next academic year. The work began in March 2011.

Somerville is installing a WiFi system made up of components from Aerohive Networks. The wireless network is being implemented by Aerohive reseller LAN3.

In a statement the college said that the wireless initiative is replacing ad hoc and unmanaged access points from 3Com, which began to crop up on campus about seven years ago.

"We have Ethernet connections in all our student accommodation, but we must be aware of changing user IT behavior and the devices students want to use, said Somerville IT Manager Chris Bamber. "To remain a top Oxford college we need to deliver the same high level of technology access you'd expect from an international business."

Bamber acknowledged that the expansion of wireless on campus is in some measure a competitive move. "We recognize that technology plays an increasingly important role in college choice for [prospective] students--it is a key differentiator for us. As smartphones and iPads become the norm, we've made sure we are perfectly placed to support the connectivity demands of both the existing crop of students, but moreover, the next generation of prospects looking to embark on university career."

Aerohive's architecture is controller-less. That means that the access points have built-in intelligence that enables them to find each other and share network information. Should an access point fail, the others in that "hive" or group will detect the failure and pick up the traffic.

The college is also using Aerohive's HiveManager Virtual Appliance network management system for performing policy configuration, firmware upgrades, and access point monitoring from a single console.

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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