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Chicago Art Institute Moves to Gigabit Wireless Network

To accommodate growing demand for bandwidth, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has upgraded its campus network that uses gigabit wireless technology. The Institute, which has 3,246 students and six campus buildings in downtown Chicago, recently increased its count of wireless links from BridgeWave Communications to expand its campus network. The original BridgeWave network was put in place in 2009 to support voice and network services. The latest upgrade brings two residence halls onto the same network.

The 2009 installation replaced a mesh network that had been in place for several years. At that time the Institute's Department of Information Services began to explore upgrade options, including dark fiber and Metropolitan Area Ethernet. The former approach describes an optical fiber infrastructure that's already in place but currently being unused; the latter consists of dedicated lines that deliver high-speed Internet.

Eliminating those alternatives owing to cost, Kevin Lint, executive director of telecommunications and network services for the Institute, began exploring millimeter wave wireless technology, a long-existing though rarely used approach well suited for short-range point-to-point and point-to-multipoint applications.

Since the campus buildings are situated within close proximity, Lint went with a network of BridgeWave's high performance 60 GHz wireless links to provide users with access to the Internet and systems hosted on servers located in a central data center. "BridgeWave's 60 GHz radios offer five-nines availability and can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of leasing Metro Area Ethernet service," he said. "The decision to go with BridgeWave was simple." Compared to the Metro Area scheme, he estimated that the BridgeWave set-up saves the Institute about $150,000 a year.

The deployments use a total of eight BridgeWave AR60 Ethernet bridges. Installation, including performance testing and activation, was fairly quick, Link said. "We found that installing BridgeWave equipment was considerably easier than our previous point-to-point wireless links, which required the installation and on-going maintenance of LMR-series coaxial cable and connectors." BridgeWave's radios work with standard fiber cabling from the network switch or router.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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