Temple To Deploy Wireless LAN Across 8 Campuses in Philly

Temple University, with 34,000 students, has begun deploying a new wireless network with equipment from Meru Networks that by the end of 2008 will cover all eight of its campuses in the greater Philadelphia area. About 900 Meru wireless access points (APs) will be installed over the course of the project, offering a combination of IEEE 802.11a/b/g access and newer high-speed 802.11n technology--and in some locations replacing wired networking altogether.

The Meru network has been deployed in Temple's Law School, School of Business and Teaching-Education-Collaboration-Help (TECH) Center, a 75,000-square-foot facility housing a 700-computer lab.

A 200-AP deployment, nearly complete at the College of Liberal Arts, will start out as 802.11b/g and later activate the 11n capability of the Meru products.

A pilot 802.11n network at the School of Medicine has been deployed, letting students stream video applications and download complex medical images to their laptops. In a new multi-story medical center to be completed next year, wireless will be the primary means of networking in the center's academic spaces.

Parts of the Meru wide area LAN replace an 802.11b network installed several years ago by another vendor and plagued with problems since then, said Michael Taylor, Temple's executive director of telecommunications. "It took more than a year to make that network stable, and even then we were unhappy with it," Taylor said. "Clients would routinely disconnect while roaming, and with its limited number of channels and interference issues, it didn't come close to supporting the user densities typical of lecture halls. Then 802.11g came out, and we needed a way to deploy it without letting our 11b clients drag us down. We were constantly on the lookout for a new solution."

The university envisioned its new WLAN as a potential replacement for wired networks in academic settings. "Today students want to use wireless in the classrooms, for high-bandwidth medical applications--every way a wired network can be used," Taylor said. "Equally important, wireless is a money-saver on construction costs because we don't have to wire every seat in a lecture hall."

Taylor said he believes the Meru approach simplifies network management. "Every other vendor's product requires a detailed site survey, to figure out what you'll do about access point placement so as to avoid co-channel interference. With Meru the survey is much easier, and often not needed at all. In a given area you can provide coverage on a single channel, and then layer more channels to add capacity, without worrying about what's already there."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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