Fast Track - Next Generation Wi-Fi Network 2015
UW Wi-Fi is the primary way most students connect to the UW and the Internet. As technology and the number of devices continues to increase, so too does usage and the demands on the network. As it is not uncommon for students to bring two, three or more Wi-Fi devices to campus, the Wi-Fi network must continue evolving in order to provide good performance and coverage.
Over the last 15 months the number of devices accessing Wi-Fi in a week has almost tripled and we now see 1.5 times more devices in a day than we used to see in a week.
This proposal asks to fund a portion of the necessary Wi-Fi expansion of Wi-Fi and upgrade key student areas to the latest standard, 802.11ac. These upgrades allow the Wi-Fi network to support higher speeds, new standards and more users. The end result is a faster, more stable wireless experience for students.
The UW Wi-Fi network provides a fundamental building block to support collaboration.
The UW has offered Wi-Fi for its students for almost a decade. Back in 2005 wireless usage and expectations were very different than they are today. At that time some students would have laptops with Wi-Fi, but it was really considered a network of convenience. Today nearly every student has a Wi-Fi device and more than two-thirds are using two or more Wi-Fi devices simultaneously (Educause, 2014 ECAR Study of Students and Technology). It is now the primary way students connect with each other, the University and the Internet. These devices are using more data while, at the same time, users expect fast and pervasive Wi-Fi almost everywhere.
To keep up and meet the needs of our students and the University, the Wi-Fi network must continue to evolve. This includes adding more capacity through more access points, upgrading existing locations to the latest Wi-Fi standard (802.11 ac), improving outdoor coverage, and filling coverage gaps in key areas.
Historically the Student Tech Fee Committee, the ASUW and GPSS recognized the importance of Wi-Fi and have funded a portion of the Wi-Fi network rollout and upgrades. These include the original deployment (2005-145-1, 2006-108-1 and 2007-083-1) in $500,000 increments. More recently funding included supplemental support of $1,000,000 in 2001 (2011-040-1) and $500,000 in 2012 (2012-089-1).
If this proposal is funded it, along with money and resources from UW-IT, will provide for significant upgrades and expansion. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Deploy outdoor coverage and capacity improvements in Red Square (primarily north side), Hub Lawn and the Quad (primarily south side).
- Deploy new outdoor coverage in the new Rainier Vista area
- Implement additional coverage on the South side of Red Square, North side of the Quad, and other areas in the Rainier Vista, where feasible.
- Deploy technology and capacity upgrades in Allen, Odegaard, Suzzallo and other libraries
- Implement technology and capacity upgrades in the HUB, By George, I-Court and other student areas
- Additional upgrades and coverage as budget and time allow.
This is the first year of a multi-year project to upgrade and expand Wi-Fi throughout the UW.
Benefits to Students and the University
Students are far and away the greatest users of the UW Wi-Fi. For most students, the Wi-Fi network is their primary way to connect while on and around campus. Now that laptops, tablets and smartphones are prevalent, the network continues to see dramatic increases in Wi-Fi usage. In 2009 there were 90,000 unique devices in that year. By 2013 there were 145,000 unique devices per month and in January 2015, we are expecting around 200,000 per week.
Ubiquitous student access to high speed Wi-Fi connectivity enhances both formal and informal student learning and communications. Wireless access to resources and communications has become an integral, essential and important part of the UW experience.
In addition, a robust Wi-Fi network allows many students to decrease or eliminate expensive cellular data plans.
WiFi availability is increasingly vital to our mobile student population. Instant access to classroom materials, student records, scheduling aids, and resource locators (like UW’s award winning “MySpace” app) are all examples of important services students regularly rely on. With almost 200,000 wireless devices accessing our network each week, and demand for this service doubling roughly every 18 months, UW students would benefit greatly from this investment of the Student Tech Fee toward increased WiFi capacity and coverage.
Associate Vice President, Networks, Data Centers and Telecommunications UW-IT
The Wi-Fi Refresh program allows us to keep up with the ever-increasing numbers of mobile devices our students are bring to campus. The team is commented to deliver the best coverage and keeping up with the demand for improved coverage in underserved areas. These technology upgrades help us deliver faster service to the students, helping them get the best education while attending the university. I fully support this proposal for the Next Generation Wi-Fi Network.
Traci Townsend, Program Manager, UW Information Technology
This is the first year of a multi-year project. If this proposal is funded, work on the outdoor, library, HUB and other student areas will begin as soon as possible after receiving notification of the award. Substantial work will not begin until funding is made available. Fast Track funding will allow this project to begin this spring.
Due to the complexity and size of this project, work is expected to continue throughout the remainder of the funding year.
Work will be prioritized based upon a number of factors. This project welcomes input from the STF, ASUW, GPSS and other student groups to help prioritize and highlight areas of most importance.
Resources Provided by Department
UW Information Technology is providing project, technical and financial management for this project. The Next Generation Wi-Fi project is a multi-year project. In FY 2015 UW-IT has a non-labor budget $1,459,372 to support Wi-Fi operations, refresh and expansion.
UW Information Technology will provide on-going support for the network, including operations, maintenance, management systems, customer support and engineering.
Access Restrictions (if any)
Any student with a UW NetID and a properly equipped laptop computer, tablet, smartphone or most other Wi-Fi device will have access.
Within the last few years, UW has been going green. With this, much of the course material as well as student evaluations for classes has been moved to Canvas or Catalyst. To access these sources, a Wi-fi connection is required to access homework assignments, quizzes, exams, powerpoints, etc. Many professors also send out important announcements on these websites as well as through e-mail. Since a majority of our students and staff also commute, it's important for them to have access to Wifi to look at the bus schedule or to check traffic alerts. As a student, Wi-fi is required to complete required assignments and exams in my classes, communicate with my professors and peers, to do extensive research for my projects, and much more. I fully endorse this improvement to improve Wi-fi efficiency to not only benefit students, but also the faculty and staff of UW.
Senior, Public Health
We are in an age where technology has taken over many learning aspects of student life. That includes students using handheld devices to replace textbooks, planners and even bulletin boards. As for me, I use my tablet to check my e-mails, homework assignments and class websites. Having access to Wi-Fi on campus has definitely made my student life more convenient. Sometimes however, there are areas on campus where the Wi-Fi signal drops, which causes other students and myself trouble in accessing the resources we need online. This usually results in missing important e-mails and alerts that are essential to our classes. With this proposed upgrade in the Wi-Fi network, it would be a great benefit for students like myself who find trouble in these dead Wi-Fi areas; We would be able to receive our e-mails and alerts more often without worry of stepping in one of these areas. I fully support this Wi-Fi upgrade as it will improve the access of the resources we students rely on in our everyday college life.
I study information and its use by people and organizations. However, in order for information to be applied and useful, it has to be available. Wi-Fi is the key access point for information here on the UW campus. As students crowd around hotspots to use their tech devices to study and work on assignments, it is key that the University of Washington provides a stable, effective, and secure network system. I can attest as a student to the difficulty of finding an available study area with Wi-Fi access during exams period. Odegaard library and other locations with strong Wi-Fi access are always full during exam time. This not only presents a personal problem for accessing information, but also a student-wide problem as those crowded around the hotspots experience a significant drop in Wi-Fi performance. As such, I fully endorse the improvement to the UW Wi-Fi network in hopes it will improve network traffic and allow us to access the information we need.
There is debate whether the STF Fee should be used to improve WiFi experience on campus. I would like to give my recommendation to this proposal. My experience at UW for wireless connectivity so far has been quite good, but I have noticed a few gaps that could be addressed, specifically the speed of WiFi when there are many users in one area.
There have been some instances when I am in Odegaard, especially during midterms or finals week, where the WiFi routers get congested with traffic (used speedtest.net to compare speeds between high and low traffic times as I was curious to see the difference) and I end up either leaving to go to a less congested area, using my smartphone to tether to my laptop, or simply going home to finish my work.
As a student, I feel much more motivated when I am on campus rather than at home, but only can do so if there is a reliable, consistent WiFi experience. Using the STF Fee to maintain and create a more robust WiFi network would be in the best interest of the students, especially when the amount of wireless devices per person is on an upward trend.
Master's of Health Care Administration Candidate
Class of 2016
University of Washington
School of Public Health
This is a portion of the total investment that UW-IT is making in Wi-Fi over the course of a multi-year project. For example in FY15, UW-IT has a non-labor budget of 1,459,372 for Wi-Fi expansion, upgrades, maintenance and other Wi-Fi related costs.Justification
The Next Generation Wi-Fi network provides the capacity and coverage improvements that are necessary to meet the growing demands. If funded, this will include upgrades to major outdoor areas, in most major libraries, the HUB, By George, the I-Court and other student priority areas as budget allows.
UW-IT has negotiated special upgrade pricing directly from the equipment manufacturer. These are substantial additional discounts that cannot be made available through CDW-G. Therefore the project plans the majority of equipment will be procured directly with the vendor to take advantage of these savings and maximize the funds awarded.
Total requested: $1,000,000.00
Total funded: $0.00
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