The UCSB Office of Information Technology (OIT) plans to extend wireless Internet coverage throughout much of the campus’ public space, including the area near the new Arbor building and the campus bus loop by North Hall.
OIT technician Kevin Schmidt said the additional coverage is part of an $180,000 project, funded by the Executive Vice Chancellor’s Office, to expand campus wireless capabilities. Currently, wireless Internet is only available in or around Campbell Hall, the Events Center and the UCen. Schmidt said construction of the new access points should begin next month.
Schmidt said wireless Internet is in high demand amongst students, even in lecture hall spaces.
“Campbell Hall had access the first day of fall quarter,” Schmidt said. “We did not advertise [its] availability, but that did not stop students from finding it within a day of its activation.”
Schmidt said OIT will eventually set up wireless access in the north-south corridor between Campbell Hall and the UCen, and in the east-west axis between Davidson Library and the Events Center. He said the path from the Events Center to the bus loop will also have wireless Internet.
In the past few months, Schmidt said, OIT has experienced some delays in implementing its wireless program outside because of the lack of availability for outdoor access points. Access points are equipment that broadcast the Internet to laptops via radio signal.
“Our vendor, Airespace, had been working on an outdoors access point, but it was not available [last year],” Schmidt said. “The part became available in November. We ordered three and the first one will be installed on the new Arbor building [in about a month].” Schmidt said OIT has also experienced problems with existing signals. The Events Center, for instance, was wired to broadcast wireless signals last spring, however, the strength of the signal is still weak. OIT will fix the signal strength as soon as it receives new equipment.
Schmidt said OIT technicians test potential sites before placing an access point.
“We don’t just plug in an access point,” Schmidt said. “We have to do site preparation. We have an ‘access point on a stick’ that we use to determine the best coverage area.”
Other factors technicians consider when determining where to place an access point include the availability of power and network infrastructure to power the unit, Schmidt said. The design of the surrounding buildings is also an issue.
“Windows can be a real killer,” Schmidt said. “The windows in the UCen have a metallic tint, and that causes a huge decrease in signal strength.”
Although the Executive Vice Chancellor’s Office pays for the installation of wireless networks in public places on campus, Schmidt said academic departments such as the Psychology Dept. and English Dept. have to fund their own wireless network connections.
However, Schmidt said these departments do not always have to set up their own service, provided they are fortunate enough to be near a public access point.
“When we install a system, we want a guarantee that it performs to certain specifications, up to a certain line,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes the signal spills over, and that’s called incidental coverage. People on the north side of Ellison Hall have reported being able to access the Campbell Hall signal.”