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Sewanee Expands Wireless Network Across 10,000-Acre Campus

With a sprawling campus of more than 10,000 acres and century-old buildings, the University of the South in Tennessee, also known as Sewanee, needed an expansive and flexible wireless solution to connect students, faculty, and members of the community. The school had been using a combination of wired and wireless systems to serve select portions of the campus; but in order to improve service and make wireless access available everywhere, Sewanee has initiated an overhaul using gear from Colubris Networks that will eventually bring 100 percent wireless access to the buildings on the campus.

Phase 1 Deployment
So far, Sewanee has deployed one Colubris MultiService Controller and about 70 Colubris wireless MultiService Access Points in the first phase of its overhaul, with plans for about 170 by the time of completion. The process involves replacing wireless gear from a prior vendor that has since gone out of business--a sort of backfilling approach as old gear gets removed and replaced with the new. The finished deployment will include not only academic buildings, administrative buildings, and residence halls, but access for visiting members of the community as well, with a total of about 90 buildings having complete wireless coverage.

Despite the scale of the operation, it is, essentially, a one-man show, with Geno Schlichting, communications specialist for the university, handling the deployment pretty much single-handedly, including research for the project, monitoring, management, and aspects of the physical deployment itself. Although he said Colubris has been providing technical support for the project, there are no subcontractors or other outside firms helping with the deployment.

"I'm the grunt," he told Campus Technology. "Colubris has been good with technical support, but [the equipment] is easy to set up."

The university is using two varieties of Colubris MultiService Access Points: the single-radio MAP-320 and dual-radio MAP-330. The dual-radio option, Schlichting said, is one of the reasons he decided to go with Colubris, since it provides a dedicated sensor for wireless intrusion detection and prevention, so performance doesn't have to be sacrificed for security. Schlichting said the Sewanee is also evaluating the Colubris RF Manager for additional security.

Full Implementation: Community Access and 802.11n
The "grunt" so far has the job about 60 percent completed and said he expects the project to be fully implemented within about three years, although planning and budgeting are still underway for portions of the project. There's still one major academic building to finish up before the end of the year, at which point, Schlichting said, further work will be done on administrative and support buildings, which have about 30 percent wireless coverage at this point, and residence halls, which have about 60 percent coverage as of this writing.

Beyond student, faculty, and staff access, the liberal arts university (which aso includes an Episcopal seminary) also plans to make accommodations for members of the community visiting the campus. "The community and university are synonymous," Schlichting said. To that end, Schlichting said the University of the South is currently testing the Colubris Visitor Management Tool (VMT). This allows guests who do not have a regular campus account to use the university's network with a guest login/password setup.

This winter, between semesters, the university will also likely begin experimenting with the Colubris Visitor Management Tool (VMT) in its library to provide basic Internet and e-mail access for guests.

In addition, to coincide with the launch of a new $20 million science center this summer, the university will also deploy Colubris MAP-625, providing 802.11n access to the science building. The university is, at present, strictly 802.11g, so that will be the initial test bed for 802.11n on the campus.

"...The Colubris solution is easily upgradeable, which will be important as we look to explore the capabilities of the new 802.11n wireless standard in the coming year. Colubris allowed us to cost-effectively deploy reliable wireless throughout our campus," he said. "Its reliability makes my job a whole lot easier."

The University of the South serves about 1,500 students presently. Further information about the university and Colubris can be found at the links below.

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About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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