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Online Only: Jones Wireless Routers

By Seth Brown     3/7/12 6:00pm


Students at Jones College can now plug into the Internet at lightning-fast speeds without having to plug into the wall, all thanks to updated wireless access points. 

William Deigaard, director of Networking, Telecommunication and Data Center Operations, said the upgrade occurred during the weeks leading up to spring break, the first step in a greater plan to upgrade all 1,200 of Rice University's access points by the end of the summer. 

Deigaard said the upgrades are part of both a response to student feedback and the natural inclination toward more current technology. The previous upgrade took place between 2005 and 2006 with the installation of the Cisco 1010 series. However, those access points lack support for the latest wireless networking standard, 802.11n, which can increase transfer rates up to speeds of 600 megabits per second.

Deigaard said the new access points are of the Cisco 3500 series, which supports 802.11n and comes with a built-in spectrum analyzer. The spectrum analyzer can be used to better deal with interference from other radio sources such as microwaves. Once an access point detects interference in one frequency, it should be able to shift to an unaffected frequency. 

Deigaard said the Jones upgrades were made with practically no downtime. Only a small number of access points were affected, and the changes were made during the day when most students were in class. 

Deigaard said that IT is now focused on collecting feedback to ensure the the new system is working correctly at Jones before expanding to other colleges. Deigaard said that, along with upgrading old access points, IT will also install 147 new access points across campus to increase coverage. 

Jones College junior Adrian Galindo said he was happy with the recent upgrade.

"If you have a computer with wireless built in to it, you can get some serious throughput," Galindo, an IT student computer consultant, said. "I'm extremely satisfied."

Jones College freshman Zihe Huang said he had not noticed much of a change. 

"Speedwise, I haven't noticed any differences," Huang said. "I use land line in the dorms, and land line is always faster than the wireless."

Deigaard said that the challenge moving forward will be dealing with the proliferation of mobile devices in the dorms. Notable offenders include wireless gaming controllers, cell phones and laptops. Diegaard said that students should report problems to optimize their wireless connection.

"The most important thing you can do when you're having wireless problems is to talk to the help desk," Deigaard said. "Don't just sit there and be like, ‘This is terrible; our wireless stinks.' With a properly updated machine and a wireless driver, you can have a very good experience on the wireless network."

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